Regenerating Southill is a massive challenge
Fr Joe Young describes Southill not as a disadvantaged community, but an “abandoned” community. That abandonment is palpable as one walks thorough O'Malley Park and Keyes Park. Unlike Moyross, there is a disturbing stillness to O'Malley Park where community life once thrived. A vast empty gulf separates the densely clustered houses from the main thoroughfare of the Roxboro Road. Few people venture outdoors casually and there are no amenities. Drugs are openly dealt from houses. One resident said that kids have two choices; stay indooors or join in anti-social behaviour. The concentration of these problems to such a small area make them all the more acute.
The intimidation experienced by Southill's residents at the hands of criminals within the community is even more intense than in Moyross. Unlike Moyross, it was not possible for Village to call on residents in Southill – to do so would put residents at risk of intimidation for talking to strangers or someone mistaken as a garda. Unlike in Moyross, few residents were seen openly walking the estate; those we did see did stop to talk to us – the only person who did speak to Village deliberatley approached us and told us to ‘keep on moving', a reminder that we were being closely watched.
Two residents later spoke to Village about living conditions within the estate under “paramount” condition that their identities would not be revealed. They told Village that such is the targeted intimidation and anti-social behaviour that several elderly residents have who have lived in the area for many years have boxed-up their posessions and expect to be rehoused to another area by Christmas 2007. Another family who had a mortgage on their Southill home were housed in a nearby hotel for three weeks. Maurice Quinlivan, a Sinn Fein representative in Limerick told Village: “The final indignigty is that the family had to pay for their house to be boarded up”.
The fragmentation of Southill's residents as a result of being rehoused will make the challenge of regeneration even greater. Fitzgerald spoke of initiatives to restore community life but several residents cannot see how this will happen should the people responsible for anti-social behaviour remain while other families are scattered across Limerick. Residents are critical of the HSE who, they say, is partly responsible for housing some criminal elements in Southill. They say the HSE's “vetting” of housing applicants is ineffectual and often counters the actions of the Local Housing Authority. Over 2,000 people are on the waiting list for social housing in a city with 8,000 social housing units. The problem is exacerbated by a general reluctance of landlords to house tenants on rent allowance; the HSE often intervenes to agree long term leases. This is part of broader negative perception within Limerick of people who live in Southill and Moyross who in the past have found it difficult to secure employment because of their address.
A view into the densely clustered housing in O'Malley Park in Southill. Photo taken from near the Roxboro Road.
Satellite View of Southill and Moyross (click to enlarge). Images provided by Google Earth.