Communities Helping Themselves

 Posted by on January 31, 2012  Add comments
Jan 312012

Still surfing the wave of positivity from last night’s meeting, I decided to practise what I preach and come up with some sort of a framework that might help us to think our way through the various issues.  I was thinking that it might be a good thing to include people’s suggestions under the various headings and see what the combined Bock hive-mind comes up with although, considering the nonsense we’ve been talking here for the last six years, the signs aren’t promising.

All the same, let’s give it a lash.  We should start by defining broad areas to consider, and if I had that  job (which I don’t) I might decide to start with the following divisions:






I know that looks a bit abstract, but in fact, it pretty much encompasses what makes up our existence.

Under People, I’d list all the slices of humanity that influence our situation, for good or ill, and I’d start prioritising them.  Who am I talking about?  Entrepreneurs, artists,  athletes, builders, designers, criminals, doctors, cooks, farmers, musicians, police, managers, politicians and so on ad infinitum.  Old, young, sick, healthy, rich, poor.

Let’s not forget the Limerick diaspora.

I’d work hard at this because once we know precisely what we’re dealing with, we can decide what to concentrate on.


Then I’d look at Places.  I’d include our town and I’d break it down into its component parts: streets, civic spaces, historic buildings, business premises, shops, attractions, hospitals, theatres, performance venues, restaurants, pubs.  Add your own to the list.  Near the top of my list would be the magnificent waterway that flows through the heart of our settlement, and defines its character.  I’d include the wonderful lakes twenty minutes upriver, and the Atlantic coast less than an hour away.  I’d also include the international airport twelve miles out the road. Once I had a comprehensive list, I’d start asking how to capitalise on them.  How to restore what needs to be fixed, how to maximise the benefits of what we have, and in some cases whether or not to remove what we find offensive, such as half-built Celtic Tiger follies.

I wouldn’t forget the castle of the evil Prince John, brother of Richard the Lionheart, who spent his days trying to hunt down Robin Hood while the good king was away in Palestine slaughtering the unbelievers.  I’d ride that horse till it collapsed of exhaustion and draw in tourists from all over the world.

Under Places, I might also include locations with which we have useful strategic relationships, such as the home cities of our rugby rivals, and I might abandon twinning arrangements with towns whose only purpose was to send councillors and officials on junkets.  I’d put a special tick beside Dublin and start asking hard questions about the diversion of western resources to the east coast.

Activities would include all the wonderful things we have in our town.  This is what we do.  It might be paid work.   It might be parenting.  It might be music, art, sport, science, research or innovation.  We have an internationally-known rugby team, a top-class university, a world music centre, a school of art and design.  Limerick has  produced musicians whose work would be instantly recognised anywhere in the world, from the  Cranberries to Riverdance.

Any of the things in the list would benefit our town if we decided to boost them, and there are many ways to support effort.  It doesn’t always have to be a grant or an approval from some government agency.   It was obvious to me from last night that we could easily establish a parallel system of support without recourse to any official approval.  If you wanted to start a business growing organic vegetables, it should be possible to reach out and pick  three or four people with the necessary expertise to guide you through the process.  I think that spirit is present, and I think people would sign up to that sort of commitment: five, ten, twenty hours a month helping others to improve their circumstances and by extension, the circumstances of our town and our children’s future.


I’d do it.  I’d give whatever little skills I have to help others and I think many besides me would do the same.  Maybe somebody would volunteer to write a program for keeping track of such offers.

That brings us to Context, by which I mean political, economic, social and also the context of the mind.  Let’s explore the environment of the human mind.  Thoughts, emotions, ambitions.  Creativity.  Insight.  Understanding.  Curiosity.  Education, research and training.  Music, art, writing, science and technology.  There’s no end to it.

We can’t do much about the world macroeconomic climate.  We can do little to influence Angela Merkel.  But we can urge our politicians (and by urge I mean frighten)  to give our region fair treatment.  More to the point, we can change the context of what goes on in our people’s heads.  We can encourage people to have a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership, because that’s something we’ve been losing as alienation took hold.  How many people do you know who couldn’t name the streets of our city?  That’s very sad.

We need to restore the sense of belonging, the sense of pride and we can do it in small, incremental ways.  As someone said last night, get people to sweep outside their doors.  Get everyone to pick up one piece of litter every day.  Encourage people out of the idea that someone else will do it.  We don’t have a culture of disapproval as they do in many European towns, where it would be unthinkable to throw something on the footpath, and we need to discover it, but that’s not the only sort of context I’m talking about.

The context also includes the broader perception of our town, sometimes justified but more often promoted by lazy journalists, including some who were born, bred and educated in the city.  We need to confront this tendency, but not in a defensive way.

There are many other contexts besides this and I won’t try to list them all.  This is only my attempt to show how we might look at the top-level issues.

You might think the final item on the list is superfluous. Objectives.

You might think that means employment, and you’d be right, but you might also consider the more profound objectives of human fulfilment, happiness, health, social cohesion and peace, among others.  This is another list we could profitably add to and prioritise.

Once we’ve done all that, we can start coming up with ideas and suggestions, but not before.  Of course, I’m not suggesting for a second that this is how we should divide things up.  I’m just saying we need to go through some such process, instead of throwing out ideas  to build monorails or make contact with Martians.  Thanks for the thought guys, but let’s work with what we have.

Now.  That’s my stab at it.  Over to you and let’s see what you think should go into the lists.  Let’s find out if you think the headings are useful or if you think I’m talking bollocks.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

Either way, at least we have people talking and thinking.  It’s all about helping ourselves.


  34 Responses to “Communities Helping Themselves”

Comments (34)

    Excellent post.
    Good to have a framework for any objectives.


    That;s a very good start, to try to see things more clearly and make it achievable.


    But it’s only a start. Who’d like to kick in their ideas and make it better?


    Irrelevant negative comment deleted.

    All future pointless comments will suffer the same fate. This thread is not about giving people a chance to be bitter. Contribute or be quiet.


    My tuppence worth.

    You mentioned the lush and bountiful countryside that surrounds the city. Why not become a centre of excellence for food production. We one had 5 bacon factories, surely the necessary skills are still around. Limerick Ham was once faomus, can it be restored?

    When I say food excellence I mean quality hams, bacon, beef etc not mass produced water injected shite. The same with vegtables and dairy products such as butter & cheese. We are in the Golden Vale

    Limerick had several breweries

    Are there the skills present to open one to supply the pubs in the area with quality beer?

    These should create locals jobs with the produce being sold locally and attracting ppeople in to buy.

    I know nothing of the economics of farming or brewing, but I’ll happily buy the produce.


    Go to the next meeting. Say that.

    Will I put it under Activities?


    I think it’s important to focus on giving the city a focal point, be it the river or something else. Making the city more pedestrian friendly with wider footpaths and more car parks. I also think that limerick has a large anti social element and a lot of them are very prominent in the city centre. I think it’s unreasonable to try and police all the troublemakers in limerick right now but policing the city centre is very viable. If you can get more guards on the street i.e walking the beat, then the anti social element will be less likely to hang around the city centre. I’m just thinking of the way manhattan is policed and whilst the cops prob would struggle to police all of new York as they have in manhattan, what they have done is keep an area of the city very safe and therefore attractive for locals and tourists who want to have fun. I also think that padraig Kerins idea of providing free wifi in drogheda would be a great idea for limerick. Get a company like digiweb to sponsor it. I think there’s huge pride and positivity amongst limerick people as well as fantastic ideas but creating a functional city centre would mean all the ideas that people have would work a lot better as at the moment these ideas can often lose effectiveness as the cities pedestrian unfriendly infrastructure dilutes them. I love limerick, I think we can kick on and become one of the greatest cities in europe. We have a fabulous arts and cultural presence, great sporting tradition and a lot going for the city in terms of its location, river, proximity to the airport etc.
    I know my thoughts haven’t been structured well in reference to your headings but I was at the meeting and wanted to shout this stuff out but I want to see what people think of these ideas here, as in what’s feasible and what’s not.


    Thanks for the contribution. When you get a a chance, you might consider putting the points under the various headings, or alternatively, suggesting changes to the categories, if you think they should be altered.


    Imagination wins out; every time.
    If I had an imagination I’d need no clock.


    Thanks. How does that help?


    Ok. Fair enough. I think as categories go Infrastructure would be a good one. I don’t know any other city laid out like limerick and I think that’s for good reason, it doesn’t work. I understand there’s no pit of money to pick from si it’s important that we prioritise and get the most bang for our buck when changes are made in the city centre. I’m keen to hear what people think would make the biggest difference to our city. I like this site and I agree that the answer to the Patrick st area isn’t just retail but I think it’s got a big part to play.
    After Infrastructure I think policing is a huge factor and I think it deserves a category to its self. How can we make the city centre a safer place for people to come into. I’m sick of junkies, whores and scumbags wandering around the city centre hassling people. More guards on the beat in the city? Is this a funding issue? How can we pressure for more funding?
    For me these are the two biggest things that need tackling., infrastructure and policing. We get those right and everything else will kick on from there


    Okay. This thread is relevant to me, schooled at the JFK before we left. Now for idea’s.


    How about if I put Policing under Activities?

    Infrastructure is interesting because it could come under a number of headings. I toyed with the idea of giving it its own heading but hesitated, because it could be argued that infrastructure is a sub-category of Place, the physical world.

    I’m open to persuasion on this. It’s all about the conversation.


    I’d give them their own categories because I think they are both hugely important factors in taking this city forward. I’d like if they weren’t lumped in other another category because I feel they need as much attention as possible. That’s my opinion, I’m a newbie here so I understand if you waning go another way


    No need for too many top-level categories. You could give everything its own category if you wanted, but that would go against the idea of creating a structure. Once we create the high-level categories, there’s plenty of room for further headings. Stick with this and you’ll see where it’s going. It makes sense.


    Fair enough, I’ll happily go with it


    I would usually make copious notes prior to putting ideas forward, bit incapacitated presently so this is off the top of my head.

    People; Of the attendees at last nights meeting, those willing to get involved need to ” sign up ” providing their individual skills, contact details and roughly what sort of time they have to give to the process their ideas etc could be included, that will provide the framework of who is committed and where the next step in the process could go.

    Places; Whereas all the places you mention above are of great value in all areas, I would think the first step would be to focus on a specific and managable area with outlying areas on the agenda dependent on the commited resources.
    The initial area in order to breath life back in to the City would be a defining of a ” City Centre ” just for the purpose of step 1.

    Activities; The activities which could take place have endless possibilities From street music, art, dancing…….open Theatre, all of which have already taken place in Limerick but could be broadened and regular.
    There is a big movement in the U.K. presently, something akin to the big cook out at riverfest where people come together to cook and share their ” food experiences ” barbeques, camper vans etc, there is no charge for the food just a donation to the process of improving their area.

    Context; Part of this could begin with an Exhibition of Photographs, past and present of Limerick its people and the hinterland surrounding it, I realise that in part this has been done before but not in the context of renewal.
    This type of Exhibition would be guided by those who want this process to succeed so they would find others to guide visitors through the rich past and present of what is displayed.
    This type of visual display, which could include work from LSAD could lend a strong connective thread to the mind set and psyche of Limerick people, a small donation here could also place some funds in the coffers for the process.

    Objectives; This is an area which will have to be defined by the participants and will emerge over time However it may not be totally relevant to ” Objectives ” but as people are very seriously struggling with the current climate it would be very positive if some process could be undertaken in the shape of a ” Help / Advice / Experience sharing ” point of contact for people dealing with difficulties, ie. Debt / Banks etc, Not everyone is confident about dealing with such and anyone on board willing to give free advice, one to one or even via email would be constructive.

    Apologies if this is too long winded think i got carried away.


    Not a bit long-winded. It’s a complicated subject.


    Infrastructure : Utilise Existing Rail Network


    Acacia on the topic of the cook out, I was in NYC in June 2010 during the Soccer World Cup. Walking through Manhattan I came across several neighbourhood parties. Basically a few blocks were closed off to traffic and the residents of the various areas arrived with a cooler of beer and barbequed on the street. The biggest was on Madison Sq. where huge rigs barbequed whole pigs. A great atmosphere. We could do similar in the city centre using Thomas St / Bedford Row as a traffic free location.


    No 8. The concept of a Cook -Out and the sharing of food is one of making connection under the umbrella of what is a basic enjoyable human experience, Easy enough to achieve at relativly low cost Only weather can be a barrier but a good atmosphere and maybe some impromtu music can help with that.

    I realise that what i put forward is fairly basic compared to others, my reason for a step by step approach with such a complex process is that its important not only to provide continuance and vibrancy but to make plans and goals achievable in the short term, the bigger changes and challenges will take a lot longer and people tend to lose enthusiasm when achievments aren’t tangible and there to be seen and experienced.


    Well Done , I like and agree with the headings chosen for the following reasons

    This undertaking “Limerick Local heroes” should be treated as a project. From the beginning the scope , the duration and the cost (if any) should be set out. Bocks’ headings provide the main focus areas from which work packages can be established
    The project should have a timeline , for example set July 2012 as a milestone to assess progress against our plans.

    PEOPLE :
    Nothing to add here but to say that every limerick person should be encouraged to participate in this venture. We do this by COMMNUICATING using all available media …social , print, digita, radio, and tv. When we decide what we want to communicate , we’ll get the message out there quick thick and fast.

    We want Limerick to be a safe , attractive and enjoyable place. How do with do it ?
    We can do alot ourselves. For what we cant do, we’ll canvass and lobby the powers that be.

    1. Safety on the streets at night is a serious serious issue. and Im not talking about fri/sat nights at 2am.
    2. Traffic Problems : In my opinion the two lane one way traffic system up O Connell Street cuts the city in two. Its dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. It has turned the city centre into an angry beastl. ( In my opinion) A two way system would slow traffic down. Besides , the one way system is no longer needed given the improvements to the outer ring road network and the opening of the tunnel.
    O Connell street is not suitable for the much heralded pedestrianisation. It needs some degree of passing traffic to ensure passive surveillance is provided to keep people safe.
    4. King Johns Castle and Nicholas Street have been neglected
    5. Entire sections of the Walls of Limerick have been neglected and in some cases closed off to the public i.e. Irish Town City Wall Park
    6. The city needs a focal point. Is the milk market the focal point?
    O Connell street is not suitable for the much heralded pedestrianisation.It needs some degree of passing traffic to ensure passive surveillance

    1. Sport: Ok we’re great at Rugby and UL out in Castletroy have great facilities for students and the elite squads etc etc Maybe Im wrong , but then again Im entitled to be my opinion, Sports choices are limited outside of Rugby , GAA and Soccer. Young Girls are particularly sidelined in this area. Kids in disadvantaged areas dont have fathers to drive them to rugby or soccer sessions. Theres no squash , handball or racketball court in the city. Theres one on Hyde Road but you have to be working for CIE to play and you shower at home. End of mini rant.:-)
    But we have Munster Rugby and Heineken weekends sp who cares.

    2. Arts: Could do more

    3. Amenities : Good but could be improved, River Shannon has been neglected

    4. Education; Brilliant Facilities

    5. Festivals: This is what the City is missing. We need a mega event to put us on the map. Im not talking about a drink fuelled weekend on Denmark street or Bank Place, but a week long festival where Limerick offers an experience thats distinctive and echoes around the world

    CONTEXT – (I know what you;re saying but I would use the word ENVIRONMENT. In our environment we are surrounded by conflicting bodies, legislation, EU , Government , banks law, interest groups , politicians etc etc

    Our aim is to filter the needs out of this soup and persuade and influence those whom we want to persuade and influence

    Make Limerick the safest, healthiest and happiest, most enjoyable city to live in. ( How to measure this ???
    Make it the most popular city to visit (How to measure this ????)
    Organise a MEGA EVENT

    Innovative job creating entrepeneurs are not going to up sticks from Los Angeles and move to Limerick at the moment, no matter what types of work visa and tax credit incentives are served up by Enterprise Ireland or The IDA. The future growth sector is the knowledge economy and knowledge workers want creative happening places to live and work in. Lets get ahead while we can.


    “Theres no squash , handball or racketball court in the city. Theres one on Hyde Road but you have to be working for CIE to play and you shower at home. End of mini rant.:-) ”

    There’s ‘The Catholic Institure’ in Rosbrien and also ‘The Limerick Lawn Tennis Club’ on the Ennis road. Conor Niland and other members of his family would have played there.

    There’s also numerous badminton clubs around the city. In U.L. for instance.


    Hi FF1

    Agreed, UL have lots of Badminton. However they have no squash, racketball or Handball courts.

    Ive tried the Cathloic Institute before but they said I had to me a member and there was a waiting list. Maybe they sensed I was a Protestant.

    I’ll give the Limerick Lawn Tennis Club a call tomorrow and ask them to allow me teach 25 kids from Ballynanty how to play handball or squash


    Protestant? Jesus Christ, this is an atheist site. Clear off!


    Superchick, according to friends who are involved the “growth” sport is womens rowing. There has been a hugh surge in numbers of all ages. It’s a great sport for people who may not be particularly “sporty” in the usual ball games. Several clubs in the city centre.


    25 kids! Fair dues to you Superchick.
    Ah don’t think you need to be a Catholic to be a member of the Catholic Institute.
    I think most people refer to it as ‘The Institute’ – for the criminally insane. ha. just kidding. Think it belongs to the church alright.
    And a waiting list. I don’t think so. That wasn’t very nice.

    You typically have to be a member for these clubs alright.
    In saying that, I’m pretty sure they do week long ‘camps’ for kids (including non members) where you’d pay a nominal fee.

    I think there’s a racketball court in the CBS..
    Presentation school also have badminton courts and I think racketball too.

    Good luck with the kids!
    I used play a bit of squash.. I’d offer my services but I don’t really like kids all that much, nevermind 25 of them together. jesus.


    Bock, our smaller towns here, think 45k people or so, usually do a “Celebrate TownX” day. It involves every local merchant and club having tables and tents in a common area (In New England it’s the town green, usually). Restaurants sell two signature dishes, clubs highlight their services, business are there to answer questions. Each table has raffles and ranters and salespeople and it’s a ton of fun. They have live bands and all sorts of tomfoolery. The streets are closed for the day and it’s all pedestrianized. The beauty of it is that it brings people in on foot. You get to see what activities are available, business you didn’t know about, food you’ve never tasted etc. Sometimes you just don’t know what your town offers. This is a great vehicle. It’s particularly popular with families. The kids get to run ragged. It’s a street festival but the intent is to boost local business, amenities, and services. It’s very effective.
    I’m not awful familiar with the layout of Limerick but it sounds like you have a city centre that might be a good setting for something similar.
    Not necessarily strategic in terms of architecture/infrastructure but it does foster civic pride and boosts the economy.


    FF1, Im sorry, my facetiousness has misled you. I dont actually have 25 kids to bring playing handball /squash.

    My point is that the city needs a public sport complex catering for physical activity that doesn’t involve Rugby or Football ( even though I personally love both)

    Im looking at it from the perspective of an 8/9/11/12-15 year old in the city, the suburbs or “Regen Land”.

    Im hardly going to sign up for membership of the catholic institute or the Tennis club just to meet kids of my own age and try my hand at basketball, squash , rock climbing, handball , etc . We have to make it easier for kids in this town. They are being completely forgotten about and especially in the estates. An old guy told me how he could count 10 handball alleys that were demolished in the city during the 90s and 2000’s. Some were replaced with community centres for old people to have tea.

    Unless we focus on the kids in this town , nothing will ever change. Zero.


    I agree Superchick.

    I figured you were being facetiousness in terms of the Limk/Lawn / 25 kids from Ballynanty.. but thought you may be involved in coaching in some way.

    Anyways, totally agree. Well said.







    Bock, I took the liberty of emailing your themes as agenda items to Limerick Local heroes . Much to my disappointment , they weren’t used at the Ideas Summit in Thomond Park. Nonetheless as a good local hero , Im taking action immediately.

    1. Im setting up my own website to promote Limericks City Walls and its Castle. They’re simply not known outside Limerick. Tourists dont visit in the numbers they should. Blarney Castle, Kilkenny Castle or Trim Castle, Knappogue Castle, Dunluce Castle, Lemanah Castle, theres no reason why Limerick Castle couldn’t be just as popular.
    (might need some help with this)

    2. Im also organising a Living History Festival for June
    ( help would be appreciated)


    Good idea with the castle. Let’s see how we can mobilise help.


    Speaking as someone involved in Limerick Local Heroes and not on behalf of Limerick Local Heroes, I can assure you, you are a Local Hero. I will make a few points on your post
    Limerick Local Heroes are following the blueprint of Drogheda and the ideas summit in Thomond Park was part of the process.
    As someone who acted as a facilitator at the ideas summit I can assure you you are not alone, one common theme that came out of the summit was not the, “we can”, “is feider linn” waffle, but more, “I will commit to…”, from genuinely committed citizens of Limerick from all walks of life.
    We hope to have the Hub in Arthurs Quay operational in the coming weeks, as a focal point for all interested citizens, but please bear in mind, we are just citizens, like you, giving of our time, we have no resources, except the time and effort of all involved, but be assured things are happening a pace.
    On the Castle, King John’s Castle is the responsibility of a State Agency who are planning to spend, I believe, in excess of €6.5 million on a revamp of the facility, but, by all means proceed with your project, and be assured there will be citizens willing to help


    Thank you.

    On the Castle issue, I dont understand how or why this so called state agency is spending another €6.5million of taxpayers money on the Castle. Its fantastic as it is. Just promote it in brochures , websites etc. Theres more
    to the Midwest than Bunratty and Knappogue.

    Its sounds like citizens of Limerick are still willing to see money squandered, just like the €90 Million regen fiasco. But its not our money . Is it ?

    I took the trouble of visiting the City Council to inspect the Shannon Development Planning application for the Castle last year. Its really nice to hear they magically found a few pound under the bed……€6.5 million ???????

    In summary this is the plan for the money
    1. Move museum out of Castle lane.
    2. Install 3 floors of multimedia displays and coffee shop in the exsiting buildings (buidlings are currently closed)
    3. Replace all the exhibits in the steel buidling at the front of the Castle
    4. Install glazing over the front of the steel building.
    5. The real travesty is the plan to fill the whole of the central area/courtyard with gimmicky displays , which include a medieval jousting run ! a stables for horses? a blacksmith ? A medieval bakery ? and alot more.

    If they were to do anything , why dont they dismantle the steel building and rebuild the back wall in traditional style ( imagine the activity and commerc such a project would generate for Noicholas street. This is exactly what they did with Bunratty Castle . Bunratty castle was but a hovel before the park development and all the cottages were built in the fifities.

    Has anyone seen the mine excavations beneath the steel building ? I have, and I think theres nothing of interest there.

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