Some weeks ago, I wrote about the Johnsgate area of the city. Sitting in the shadow of our historic city wall, Johnsgate Village was built just over 20 years ago.
What should have been a pleasant inner city residential development has been allowed to descend into near chaos in the short period of its lifetime.
Since writing the column I have been contacted by 5 separate individuals, all of whom are residents of Johnsgate. They tell the same story. Their testimony is shocking, particularly at time when the Limerick narrative is one focussed on liveability, investability and phoenix-like rebirth.
One individual, who doesn’t wish to be named, invested in Johnsgate Village 15 years ago. For at time this person lived happily in the area. One minute’s walk from the Milk Market, the resident was living a content urban life.
Then things changed. It didn’t take long for the resident to move out of the city due to ongoing anti-social behaviour. The property was retained as a rental property.
In the past month the tenants fled as result of what is described as ‘intimidation’. Windows of the property were then broken at night. Today, a perfectly fine residential home sits boarded up and un-rentable in the heart of our city centre.
On Saturday last I was contacted by another Johnsgate resident who, once again, does not wish to be named. This individual story deserves to be shared.
“I am a resident of Johnsgate and bought my property after relocating to Limerick a number of years ago”, I’m told.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t investigate the area properly before purchasing. At the time, it didn’t seem to be as bad. I failed to walk through the area thoroughly. Since then, numerous houses in the development have been boarded up”.
“It is almost a daily occurrence to hear the sounds of windows smashing, or some other form of vandalism. I regularly chase children away from the house as rocks are thrown at my windows”, the resident says.
“As the nice weather arrives, kids are running around the estate more than ever. I can’t leave the house, for fear of coming back to find it destroyed or in flames”.
Despite writing to various politicians since 2016, this Johnsgate resident feels the problem has steadily worsened.
“The property is in good condition, though I’d be surprised if its worth anything.
“I’m having panic attacks for the first time in my life. My business is failing. I work from home and I can’t get my head into the space it needs to be. I feel both my mental and physical health is affected. I am not the only one. Many of my neighbours can tell you similar stories. All of us are living in a state of fear”.
The biggest issue that these residents are facing is the fact that they feel completely alone. Residents believe both the local authority and the Garda Siochana have their head in the sand when it comes to solving the Johnsgate situation.
According to this individual, more and more residents are just giving up and moving out.
“Once a house is vacated, it is destroyed to insure no other resident will move in. There is a campaign of fear and intimidation happening, and it is working. If something isn’t done immediately, this area will become a ghost town in the middle of the city”, the resident says.
“My estate is bordered by a historic landmark, which is systematically being pulled down brick by brick. This should be a place for both tourists and people of Limerick to come experience and appreciate part of their historical culture. Instead it is a no-go area for most”
The resident finishes the correspondence with this: “I write to you in the hope that you can help raise more awareness about the seriousness of the situation. Thank you for at least taking an interest in the area. For the most part the residents here feel forgotten or ignored”.
As a columnist with the Leader I find it a great privilege to find myself in a position to highlight issues such as the Johnsgate story. I have little power to deliver the changes needed, however.
The resident of Johnsgate I have spoken to in recent weeks are those who have already invested in our city in good faith. They are the ones who have bought into the liveability of their city. They are decent, honest people who have had their dreams destroyed by a small few.
Those in positions of power in our city need to take note of what is happening in Johnsgate. It is your duty to ensure those taxpayers do no feel ‘forgotten or ignored’ but as valued citizens of the city of which we are all so proud.