"I will always support limerick Business"
Tim O'Malley, TD Limerick
The city of Limerick and its immediate environs are at a critical stage in their economic development, according to Mr. Tim O'Malley, T.D., and Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children. In a meeting with Business Limerick last week, Mr.o'Malley expressed his fears that downright bad management and a poor planning strategy could lead to the degeneration of the physical and cultural environment of the city and represent a waste of the opportunities supplied by the current favourable economic climate.
This, according to Mr. O'Malley is a worstcase scenario, and he intends not to let it happen by making strong proposals at local and national level in order to restore the city to the right path. The oooradoyle-based PO's proposals include the amalgamation of the city and county councils to provide a single super-authority to govern and promote both city and county; the halting of the current one-off, ad hoc developments in the city and its environs in favour of a clear coherent
plan designed to enhance the status of Limerick City as the Mid-West's cultural and economic hub; the rapid development of a rail link between Limerick and Shannon and the creation of the graduate medical school at the University of Limerick. Tim o'Malley identifies these issues as the 'breakthrough' points that would move Limerick's profile to the centre of the national stage.
One recent development - of which everyone in the Limerick business community is now aware - is Shannon International Airport's recent of Ryanair hub status. This has, of course, been made possible by the break up of Aer Rianta into three separate authorities representing the three major international airports - Dublin, Cork and Shannon -and allowing each to compete individually for business with the carriers. It is quickly pointed out by o'Malley that this policy had its origins in a policy proposal made by his cousin, and PO founder, Des o'Malley, eight or nine years ago in Limerick's Glentworth Hotel.
''The figures speak from themselves: overall passenger growth for the first five months of this year has been 10 per cent for the three airports combined, but the breakdown of the figures is even more interesting from a local perspective - Dublin is up by 6.9 per cent, Cork by 14.3 per cent but Shannon has risen by 30%! The figure for May alone, when many of the new Ryanair routes became operational, is 42 per cent." The minister argues, however, against the local business community and others seeing this as an opportunity for back slapping or resting on laurels. "on the contrary, this huge increase in traffic represents a challenge and magnificent commercial opportunity for the region. The business community must be alive to the possibilities offered by the gain in the traffic to the region and I'm confident in the ability of Limerick and Shannon commercial concerns to grasp the opportunity. My worries would lie in other direction."
This is a reference to o'Malley's doubts about the ability of Limerick City Council to support their local economy by "raising their game" in terms of planning and strategy. "I don't doubt the ability of local businesses to accept the challenge that the massive throughput at Shannon represents, but they have to be supported in this by proper planning at council level, and it is my opinion that we may require massive restructuring in the management of the city and county." o'Malley, himself, was a businessman for thirty years before entering politics full time and he conveys the impression that he knows what he's talking about. " I will always support Limerick business- there are too many local politicians who just see our commercial sector as men and women to be squeezed at every opportunity."
In one way, the always-welcome appearance of more tourists and business travellers to the region provides a very good chance of seeing ourselves - and our services - as others see perceive them.
o'Malley expressed himself happy with the level of tourists coming to Shannon airport
west coast, the Burren and the abundant golfing and angling opportunities in the area. When it comes, however, to the city, he believes that there is "absolutely massive" room for improvement "There should be a more coherent and creative strategy for the marketing of the city's attractions and that must involve the coming together of all the stakeholders. For example, the area from King John's Castle running down past St. Mary's Cathedral towards the Courthouse to the Hunt Museum must be developed as a single location for tourists coming to the city. These are attractions of significant historical interest and a chance to walk around them with a famous river so close should be a very pleasant experience.
But that possibility is not, in my own opinion, being marketed very clearly and there is a great deal of very practical and "hands-on" work to be done towards cleaning up the area and making attractive and accessible the facilities".
In this regard, he complimented the Civic Trust for their restoration and maintenance of the Bishop's Palace and other buildings of historical interest and explicitly
between their efforts and the City Council, who, he feels, should be playing a much bigger role. "It is an absolute shame that the stop for tourist buses on the road adjacent to one of the country's best example of a medieval castle is located beside a municipally owned derelict site Effectively, the first thing that tourists on a visit to the area see is a pile of rubble and weeds. That site and other derelict buildings in the Nicholas Street area must be addressed. In addition, the traffic flow in the area needs to be changed. The new traffic arrangements are extremely poor."
One gets the impression from o'Malley that he feels that these flaws are only indicative of a wider malaise in the city management.
Another case in point, alluded to by the Minister for State, is the recent debacle involving the Main Drainage Scheme, with some observers claiming that the settlement of the case could involve the council paying up to €5o m in damages to Uniform Construction. In the context of a possible appeal to the High Court, o'Malley was reluctant to comment on the political implications of such a high settlement against the city council. -
author: Business Limerick magazine