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26 October 2006 Edition

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Moyross - problems are surmountable

Maurice Quinlivan, Sinn Féin General Election candidate standing in Limerick City with the houses in the background in Limerick County

Limerick community abandoned by government

With a number of recent shootings, two young children seriously injured in a firebomb attack last month and families feeling forced to move out of the area, the Limerick housing estate of Moyross has been in the news headlines for all the wrong reasons. Here, ELLA O'DWYER speaks to Sinn Féin Limerick East general election candidate Maurice Quinlivan about the reality of life in Moyross and the nature of the problems faced by local residents.

Maurice Quinliven describes Moyross as "a typical working class estate that the government has basically opted out of."

Made up of twelve estates "most of which you never hear about because there's no trouble in them", a major problem faced by Moyross is that there are two local authorities responsible for its administration.

While the houses come under the responsibility of the City Council, about 400 houses in one part of Moyross are built on County Council land and so the people in these homes vote in the County Council election. The County Councillors have no interest whatsoever in Moyross and scarcely ever go there.

The County Council should take responsibility for services in the area, things like rubbish collection, gritting the roads, lighting and the like but there are no services in Moyross. The area would fare better if it came under the responsibility of the City Council.

For Quinlivan a key development for Moyross would be to end County Council authority over any part and let the entire area be run by the City Council.

There's a lack of local political representation from that part of the Moyross area and there's a poor electoral turn out.

This makes for a problematic cycle in that lack of local representation disempowers the community when it comes to trying to secure community services and the lack of government input cultivates disillusionment with the electoral process. "Because the government have opted out, the people of Moyross vote less and less. In fact many of them didn't even know who their local councillors were.

"The most cringingly embarrassing thing I encountered in my whole life was attending a public meeting in Moyross recently. All seven local councillors were invited and only two had the decency to turn up. People in the audience were jumping up saying 'where's our local councillors?' The chair told them there were two present and the audience replied by saying 'point them out - we don't know who they are. The only politicians we ever see in the area are Willie O' Dea and Maurice Quinlivan.'

I was sitting there embarrassed for the two councillors at the meeting, one from Fine Gael and the other from Labour. At least they had the decency to turn up but they had let it go so far that nobody knew who they were."

Quinlivan has a lot of time for the people of Moyross, the vast majority of whom "are very decent people who lack a voice". There's no jobs on the estate, just one factory and most people work outside the area.

There are however several good amenities, like the excellent community centre, the crèche and the all weather pitches. There is only one primary school.

"We're saying there should be Neighbourhood Offices established, one in South Hill and one in Moyross. These would be places where people could go and access services and information and take advice. They'd have a point of contact."

On the crime we hear so much about in relation to Moyross and Limerick City he said: "The crime is sporadically bad and it's drugs related. Poor policing has been a problem, though recently the Garda are showing a presence. Limerick is an easy target for bad press - the whole 'stab city' logo which is highly offensive and unrepresentative.

"The people of Moyross get annoyed with all the negative press - photos of burnt out houses etc. The vast majority of houses are in good condition and well maintained. In effect it's a kind of demonisation of the community."

At the same time Quinlivan in no way plays down the problems in the area: "People are living in fear. There were daily gun battles on the street and it was hardly even making the news. It was really bad in September, especially around the 8th and 9th when there were petrol bomb attacks on the Gardaí."

On educational facilities in the area he said "the local primary school is excellent - very good. There's no secondary school and secondary schools outside the area are reluctant to take children from Moyross, indicating the class-based prejudices at work in the system."

Along with a serious need for improved services in the area, Quinlivan says there is a need to open up a road in Moyross to give access to Coonagh Roundabout where amenities are under construction.

"I would propose tax incentives for the construction of things like warehouses in the area which would provide employment locally."

Quinlivan has written to the Council stressing the need to expand the City Council jurisdiction to include Moyross. "The Council had no objection in principle though Dick Roche said he won't move on any part of the boundary until there's a resolution of the whole boundary and by the time that happens it'll be too late for the community of Moyross.

"We carried out a survey of all the houses in the county council area and 92% of people wanted to be under the City Council administration. Another problem in terms of housing is that, up to now there has been no screening and anyone could move into the area. The City Council have given a commitment to rectify that problem."

Limerick Sinn Féin are in the process of compiling a policy document on Moyross which Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD will launch in a month's time. The document will deal with issues around employment, poverty, housing, crime, health and safety, the environment, infrastructure and the need to have a single council with responsibility for the entire Moyross area.

As a Limerick man Maurice Quinlivan is committed to Moyross and comes from the neighbouring estate of Ballynanty. Acknowledging the extensive work done by local people for the benefit of the community he says that "Moyross people have a great team spirit". As political activist he is busy working with the community to find answers to the area's difficulties which he insists are in no way insurmountable.

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