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Jesuit urges Govt to fulfill regeneration commitment

By Susan Gately - 30 August, 2013

moyross-390x285If the Government does not carry through on a commitment to regenerate an underprivileged area of Limerick, crime levels in the area are set to escalate the local parish priest has warned.

According to Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ, the recent conviction of notorious criminal John Dundon for murder is no reason for complacency in relation to Moyross.

“Six or seven years ago things were off the Richter scale in relation to violence, intimidation and murder,” he told CatholicIreland.net “but the levels of human degradation and misery are still off the Richter scale.”

Following the horrific firebombing of a car in Moyross in 2006 in which two children were seriously injured, the Fianna Fáil-lead coalition government of the time announced the regeneration of Moyross and other severely disadvantaged areas.  

The bulldozers rolled in and demolished many houses and in a five year period the community lost over a third of its population. 

By 2011, the population was at 2,200, a halving of its 1992 population. Meanwhile, the plan to rebuild and regenerate the area, through the Limerick Regeneration agency stalled due to the economic collapse, and the agency has now been taken under the responsibility of the local county council.

“I feel they have taken their eye off the ball,” Fr O’Riordan said. “The inertia around the re-generation process is creating a vacuum where young people are being poached and groomed for serious criminality.”

Fr O’Riordan, who has been in Moyross for two years, says that because the issue of controlling drug lords has not been tackled, the level of addiction and domestic violence is on the rise and for many, there’s a feeling of hopelessness. 

“I meet people who are suicidal – more here than in other areas,” the Jesuit priest said.

In particular the decimation of the community is a huge concern. “Our community is devastated by the demolition of the houses.” 

He pointed to the experience of the local school “which had built up a lot of expertise”  but now has a much lower enrollment as there is effectively fifty percent less children in the area.

Every social initiative relying on funding is struggling to survive. “With focused investment, we can help people take control of their lives,” he suggested.

Fr O’Riordan said a core community of two hundred people out of Moyross’ population of 2,300 people are the backbone of the community, looking after the elderly and the young. 

Among these are two parish ‘companions’ who act as one bridge between local people and help agencies. “They are the catalysts to help keep small problems small, and work terrifically well,” the priest commented.

In spite of the obvious difficulties of the area, Fr O’Riordan said he saw signs of hope, like the recent award of a scholarship for a place in a prestigious boarding school to a sixth class pupil, or the Ireland Fund award of fees for Mary Immaculate College to a bright local student.

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