By Cian Molloy - 02 January, 2017
Limerick can be held up as a shining example of how active non-violence can be used to turn the tide against gangland crime, said Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy in a homily on New Year’s Day.
Speaking at Corpus Christi Church in Moyross on the day celebrated internationally as ‘World Day of Peace’, Bishop Leahy paid tribute to the people of that parish, and of Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St Mary’s Park, who had gone “the extra mile in nonviolence and non-retaliation in the face of violence”.
During the middle of the first decade of the millennium, Limerick was plagued by drug-related gang violence, earning it the unwanted nickname of ‘stab city’.
The violence reached its peak in 2007 when more than 100 shooting incidents were recorded by Gardaí, but since then the level of violence has decreased dramatically. In 2012, for example, only seven shooting incidents were recorded. Additionally, many parts of the city, which had been neglected, have benefited from well-organised regeneration schemes that directly involved local people in their design and implementation.
“Thanks to the contribution of many to active nonviolence, Limerick is now a city that is beginning to sing a song of co-operation and regeneration, new vitality and effective management, artistic, sport and cultural renewal,” said Bishop Leahy.
“Today Limerick is a different place. It’s not that all problems are resolved. There is still a journey to travel. But we have to acknowledge with gratitude that crime in Limerick is way down, murder is rare and communities are safer. It’s not just that peace alone has won out over crime; regeneration is now being given a chance and social justice is now winning out over anti-social neglect.
“Houses are being repaired, some building has been done and more is under way. The services for children have improved.”
Leadership and inter-agency cooperation and coordination have played a major role in bringing about the change in the Treaty City’s fortunes, said Dr Leahy. “In the past a lack of leadership and a lack of co-ordination of services stymied development. For a city to prosper, there’s a need for overall leadership, a co-ordination of services and the cultivation of leadership in the communities. We are one city and we all prosper together. It is by being together, by staying together and moving on together that we prosper.”
The Bishop also said that the city’s women in particular played a key role in improving Limerick’s fortunes and in building peace. “How much mothers have suffered is beyond calculation. Many women in the regeneration areas in Limerick showed that it is love for one another, not violence that counts.
“Limerick today is a city beginning to sing a new song in tune with Pope Francis’ message this year – the way of active nonviolence is the way to regenerate a city.”
In short, Limerick has gone from being ‘stab city’ to being a ‘standout city’, a shining example of what can be achieved. Bishop Leahy said: “On this 2017 World Day of Peace, let’s acknowledge that what’s going on in Limerick has something to say to other areas in our country where violent crime now seems to dominate.”