I see Suneil Sharma is back again, still carrying Marks & Spencer around his neck like a rotting albatross he impulsively shot long ago and far away.
I fear thee, ancient Mariner! I fear thy skinny hand!
In his latest attempt to crack the Limerick retail market, this ancient mercenary is yet again claiming that M&S will rent a squillion square feet in his proposed development at the Parkway Valley, otherwise known as the rusting hulk of a failed development from the dreaded Celtic Tiger days that stands less-than-proud on one of the main routes into Limerick as a testament to the hubris of naked greed.
Suneil, you might remember, is the man who gave us the toe-curlingly embarrassing Opera Centre title for another failed development in the city centre, a title, incidentally, which some local hacks lazily continue to use even though no such development ever took place and never will.
At the considerable risk of mixing seafaring metaphors, poor old Suneil is condemned like Vanderdecken, cursed master of the Flying Dutchman, forever more to round the Cape of Good Hope in his ship of ghosts. But in Suneil’s case, the curse is forever to peddle the Marks & Spencer myth in the hope of getting planning permission for some ludicrous shopping centre that will do nothing but distort the shape of our city. As if the ill-conceived Crescent shopping centre hasn’t done enough to depopulate the city centre, Suneil Sharma wants to create another retail vampire on the outskirts, to finally complete the doughnut effect that has destroyed so many cities around the world.
Early indications are that the council are at best tepid in their reaction to his plans and with good reason. Given the council’s proposals to develop a new heart in Limerick (unfortunately with the inevitable and depressing Marks & Spencer meme as a central element), they’ll hardly jump all over the Ancient Mariner’s plan to skew even further the shape of the city.
It’s not that I’m against Marks & Spencer. I’m as fond of classy food halls as the next man. It just seems to me that whenever anyone tries to build a shopping centre, or demolish a city block, the first trick out of the bag is M&S.
I have here a promise …
What’s wrong with us? Do we live in Springfield? Are we the Simpsons? Don’t answer that — maybe we are. After all, we react to a promise of M&S as if some out-of-town fast-talking Lyle Lanley was offering us a monorail.
What we need is a sustainable, properly-executed vision for our city, not some tacky retail theme-park on the periphery, regardless of the short-term and short-sighted promise that it would create a few temporary construction jobs.
Haven’t we moved beyond the sort of shabby cajoling that takes us all for idiots? Not necessarily, since we re-elected a healthy quotient of venal, small-minded, uneducated, money-grabbing cynics to represent us on the newly-amalgamated council.
Watch these fools carefully as events unfold. Pay close attention to the ones who support this proposal, and ask them hard questions.