Limerick’s Bridge of Sighs

And so it wasn’t a bad dream …

Michael Noonan announced funding last week for this white elephant project. Details are fairly scant at the moment, but it seems that the bridge will run from Arthur’s Quay Park over to the weir and then towards Merchant’s Quay. Through various articles I’ve read in the last week, it seems that €3 million will be spent almost immediately, so that probably means they are going for detailed design before applying for planning. That’s a lot of money for local consultants. According to Noonan another €3 million will be spent in 2016, and if an article in The Sunday Business Post is accurate the total spend could be in the region of €16 million.

That so much public money could be thrown at a completely unnecessary infrastructural project is indeed a scandal and I hope that local politicians and media will see it as such. This will be of marginal benefit to the city – and that’s being extremely kind to it. Seemingly, it has been dreamed up by a city official rather than recommended by any expert group. Nor is it contained in any City Council plan. That this project should be given up to €16 million ahead of long-awaited, much needed projects which would be of vastly greater benefit to the city is really something that we should be up in arms over.

Limerick City Council is trying to pretend that it is part of Limerick 2030, but it’s clearly not. I wrote the following beneath an article which dealt with this and the demolition of Sarsfield House that appeared in The Limerick Chronicle during the week.

“The ‘footbridge’ was never part of the Limerick 2030 plan, so let’s not pretend that it was. Limerick 2030 was a well researched document put together by experts which set out an ambitious vision for Limerick City. In contrast, the footbridge was dreamt up by city officials and there is no case to be made for it. If anything, the developments proposed under Limerick 2030 completely negate any argument for this footbridge as the demolition of Sarsfield House and the remodelling of Arthur’s Quay will create a linear park along the bank of the Shannon River, and a clear route towards Nicholas Street, King John’s Castle and the medieval part of Limerick City.

The footbridge has not been looked for by anybody in Limerick, it is not included in any plan by Limerick City & County Council, and it is not endorsed by any experts. It would be a travesty if we allow major, multi-million euro (€16 million according to The Sunday Business Post) infrastructural projects that have very marginal benefit, and which more than likely will do significant damage to the city, to proceed on the basis of solo runs by city officials who are not qualified to make these decisions and are answerable to nobody except the city manager.”

The Sunday Business Post article (19th October 2014) has the most detail on the proposal, but the utterances coming from city hall (presumably from Pat Daly, Economic Development and Planning director) and Fáilte Ireland are disingenuous, deceitful and patronising.

Noonan grants €6m for bridge on his own turf

One of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s budget surprises was a €6 million grant for a pedestrian bridge for his native Limerick City.

It will stretch over the Shannon for 100 metres, allowing people to walk from Arthur’s Quay to King John’s Castle in the medieval quarter to the city’s commercial core at Arthur’s Quay.

Although the footbridge was not included in Noonan’s budget speech or in the main budget documentation, he made sure to announce it to his local newspaper, the Limerick Leader, afterwards.

The project is backed by Fáilte Ireland, which sees it as a way of increasing the attractiveness of Limerick City to tourists. A Fáilte Ireland spokesman said it would have a “wow factor” and would link up several tourist attractions within walking distance. It is intended to be a way of promoting the city to tourists flying into Shannon Airport to drive on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Limerick Council also pushed the case for the footbridge on the grounds of social regeneration. It will provide a further connection to the St. Mary’s Park estate in King’s Island, which is one of the poorest parts of the city.

According to a business case drawn up by the council, the footbridge will cost between €7.5 million and €16 million, so private donations will be required. However, the council has pledged to make up any shortfall.

A council spokeswoman said it hoped to go to tender by the end of the year for the design process for the footbridge.

It seems that a lot of money will be thrown at this before we get a chance to make our voices known at the planning stage. No doubt Limerick City & County Council will grant permission to itself (under Part 8 of the Planning & Development Act) so it will be necessary to make an appeal to An Bord Pleanála, but unfortunately a lot of money will have been thrown down the drain before then.

This photo was released by Laura Ryan of Limerick City & County Council on Twitter on Tuesday 21st October.

footbridge

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8 Responses to Limerick’s Bridge of Sighs

  1. Dan Hegarty says:

    Dear Mr. Leddin
    How dare you, you young upstart to criticise your betters in the Council. Plebs like you obviously do not know your place in Society, you are as a resident of this city just there to “Oooh” and “Aaah” at the wonderful expensive schemes and plans they come up with for you to admire. You surely do no begrudge these privileged officials the opportunity to exercise the full extent of their fanciful imaginations and give you the privilege of paying for it.
    It may be a product of a tortured imagination but how this bridge is going to create extra connectivity with St Mary’s Park is a mystery to me. To me this bridge is an extension of their “private garden” needed to commune with the citizens of the city in the tranquil setting of the flowing water. It must be very stressful for them to have to listen to “plebs”.
    Excuse me as I remove my tongue from my cheek, and to say that I and very many like me agree with all of your sentiments.
    I will even go a little farther and say that this wonderful city has been brought to its knees by the self same officials and it seems to me that they have no intention of stopping the slide of the city into oblivion.
    This city has found a place as an employment blackspot and with all of the proposed investment (Regeneration) these officials are creating a recipe for all of this investment to be milked for anyone outside the city. Of course the officials need this investment to go outside the city otherwise we might not be an employment blackspot and their funding stream would dry up.
    You mention the University and their investment, how may Limerick people are working on the construction there.
    It is time young people like you (and with your family’s experience) to come together (there are many young and old that would help) and demand that your futures’ in the city are not squandered to satisfy megalomaniac tendencies in city hall.

    Dan Hegarty

  2. Alan McCormack says:

    Brian,

    I couldn’t agree more with the points raised and I think there are a lot of people in the city that would feel the same. This is one of the most ludicrous and ill-conceived projects ever to have come out of Limerick City/County Council. It’s a sad reflection on the calibre of city officials that this is even being considered.

    I do believe that some form of ‘iconic’ structure is needed on the riverfront but this bridge is both wasteful of limited funding resources and wholly unnecessary. A riverfront walk already exists (from Arthur’s Quay park to the Castle). This in itself is a wonderful city asset that should be exploited further. Upgrading the path to include such things as points of interest en route, an alternative river-side entrance to the hunt museum or making use of the potato market for art installations or similar would greatly increase the appeal of this riverside route.

    What is needed is a structure/building that is iconic in form and practical in function so that it is not just a white elephant but is something that is a living, breathing space availed of by citizens and visitors alike.

    • brianleddin says:

      The suggestion of a bridge, as an extension of Shannon Street, from Howley’s Quay across to O’Callaghan Strand has been discussed on various social media platforms in the last week, and is an excellent one, I think. There’s actually fantastic scope to build something of great architectural merit (and truly ‘iconic’) that would put the city centre on the map. Perhaps Limerick should host an international design competition? Limerick intends to make a bid for European City of Culture in 2020 and I think such a design competition would fit nicely with that bid. Furthermore, a bridge at that point wouldn’t compromise the heritage of the city in the way that the proposed one does, and would have great functional merit too (which surely a bridge must have!!). On a Twitter discussion I had a few days ago, @FlannerysBar suggested bringing Frank Gehry to Limerick to design a bridge.

      What do you reckon? #FrankGehryforLimerick

      • Alan McCormack says:

        I think a design competition is a great idea and fits well with Limerick’s current status as city of culture. We should try and get momentum behind this on Twitter.

  3. Dan Hegarty says:

    I think the good people of the city have become extremely passive which may be natural after years of adverse publicity for the city, and I think that our officials have become extremely arrogant and feel untouchable.
    The city is an “employment” blackspot and while the council is not the only public body that could drive a recovery in the construction sector they have included in their plans pious platitudes about “Social Inclusion” in the Regeneration Plan and the 2030 plan their contract memoranda prove that these sentiments are only trite rubbish.
    They depend on that industry sector the “building contractors” who together with the developers and bankers bankrupted the country.
    the following is a quotation from the Project Information Memorandum for the construction in the Regeneration Plan,
    “Outline of social clause:
    During the construction phase the contractor is required to
    ensure that no less than:
    10.2.1 10% of the aggregate number of person weeks (i.e. the amount of work done by
    an individual worker based on a 39 hour working week) is to be carried out at the
    site by contractors personnel who have been registered on a national
    unemployment register within the EU for a continuous period of at least 12
    months immediately prior to their employment specifically for the purpose of the
    works (“Relevant Workers”).”
    Now please do not think that I am xenophobic when I say that this is a recipe for unscrupulous builders to bus in and exploit workers from the farthest corners of the EU or even the state. I believe that our new long term unemployed “residents” are as entitled to work in our city as those long term unemployed with deep roots in the city. I consider our new residents much truer Limerick folk than those that commute in to govern us with cockeyed ideas.
    I can’t help thinking that centuries in less enlightened times ago if the people of the city had to put up with so much rubbish being spewed from city hall the people would have burned it to the ground.
    I and many of my friends are waiting for someone to take up the fight publicly.

    • brianleddin says:

      Dan,

      Thanks for those replies. It’s heartening to know that I’m not shouting into an empty vacuum and there are others out there who have the same misgivings about how this city is run as I have.

      When I started writing this blog I hoped to get well thought out responses and ideas such as what you’ve written above. I learned a few years ago that ‘our betters’ in city hall – those who commute in to govern us – only succeed in implementing their half-baked plans because they often don’t face a reasoned and articulate opposition. If this blog results in people of like mind coming together to form that opposition, it will surely be a good thing. I was away for a few years but am back now and am interested in doing what I can.

      Let’s keep an eye on developments and co-ordinate an appropriate response.

      Brian

  4. Brian, thank you for this piece. When I read about the proposal initially, and especially when I saw the pictures, my only question was but a single word. Why? Legitimate enquiry of a public project gets such a bad press these days that I had begun tVo think I was being cynical and negative. But after reading this, I see that there was a valid reason for my queasiness about the proposal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Ann Nolan says:

    I feel there is no need to have this bridge in Limerick , if you stand on Scarsfield Bridge and look towards Thomond Bridge ,,, what a beautiful sight, need say no more.
    The money should be spent repairing the Black Bridge , Plassey and our riverways,
    Dont ruin our beautiful city with such an ugly sight .

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