Monday, May 20, 2019

VOTE No. 1 Cathal McCarthy - Limerick City West

Dear Voter,

I am doing my best to speak to as many people as possible in the Limerick City West electoral area and deliver my election literature to your homes. If you haven't had a chance to meet me then this video will give you an idea of what I sound and look like. If you have any questions or criticisms regarding my election literature then do not hesitate to contact me on 087 784 50 70, after 9pm is the best time as I'll be out canvassing until then.

Best Regards,

Your No.1 Candidate for Limerick City West

Cathal McCarthy


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

ENEMY OF THE STATE? (Three Tales from My Tin Foil Hat & Other Stories)

In my 18 years as a community activist I have encountered a variety of harassment and interference from the state and its agents; I used to refer to those events as my “tales from the tin-foil hat” because whenever I would tell them people would react in disbelief, as if I were making it up or not telling the whole story, that I must have done something wrong to warrant such treatment.

I did nothing wrong, unless you consider advocating for property rights and community participation to be a subversive threat to the security of the state.

My first tale happened just over 11 years ago.

On Friday 15th February 2008 at 5:14pm I received a telephone call from an unidentified man:

Me: “hello”

Caller: “Cathal McCarthy?”

Me: “yes, speaking”

Caller: “you don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I feel I must warn you. You’re being watched, you’re being monitored, your phone is tapped.”

Me: “what?!!”

Caller: “you had a conversation with a solicitor a while ago and you were speaking about meeting with other solicitors and barristers, you mentioned Brendan Nix “

Me: “yes, that’s right”

Caller: “it’s all to do with regeneration”

The caller hung up and that conversation seared itself into my brain as I processed the information I had just received.

I’m being watched? I’m being monitored? My phone is tapped?!!

The anonymous elderly sounding gentleman (with a hint of a Dublin accent) that I had just spoken to was absolutely correct; I had been talking with a solicitor 45 minutes beforehand. We had been talking about organising a public meeting for regeneration area residents to inform them of their property rights.

We had discussed which solicitors and barristers might be agreeable to speak, in particular Brendan Nix Senior Counsel (SC); my solicitor believed that the late Mr. Nix SC would have been sympathetic to the plight of elderly residents in Southill and the other regeneration areas as he had grown up in a working class area himself.

I checked the caller ID to see if there was a number and there was, the call had been made from somewhere in Co. Tipperary.

I rang back….no answer.

I was reeling with shock and anger; I was livid at the thought of my landline being tapped as I had been avoiding using my mobile phone for the very same reason.

I had been made aware by a city Councillor that local criminals had in their possession a digital scanner that they primarily used to try and monitor Garda activity, but which could pick up any mobile call made in their vicinity. This was later confirmed to me by a senior Garda.

However, I didn’t think that the local drug dealers had the motive or capacity to tap my landline.

The next number I dialed was the mobile of the local Garda Inspector; he was the Garda representative at meetings between the Weston Gardens Residents’ Association (WGRA) and the Council, so we were in regular contact.

He assured me that the Gardaí would have no reason to tap my phone as I was not under criminal investigation and that if I was, he would surly know about it. He advised me to write a letter to Superintendent Frank O’Brien outlining what had happened and asking that the Gardaí investigate it.

Next, I called the members of the Southside Regeneration Committee (SRC) that I recently had telephone conversations with to warn them that our calls had possibly been illegally monitored by an unknown third party.

I was a former member of the SRC. I was invited to join it by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Limerick Regeneration Agencies (LRA), Mr. Brendan Kenny and I attended its foundational meeting in July 2007. I even helped the LRA to establish the residents’ forums in Southill and encouraged residents to put themselves forward for election to the SRC.

I wasn’t at the inaugural meeting of the SRC in November ’07, I had been uninvited by Mr. Kenny the previous month, according to him there had been objections to my participation by residents in Ballinacurra Weston , he said that they wouldn’t participate if I was there. However, he assured me that he would continue to meet with me and the WGRA and do his best to ensure that we were part of regeneration.

The Southill members were surprised by my absence on the night and when it was asked why I wasn’t there, they were told it was because the residents’ forum for Ballinacurra Weston had yet to be formed. There had been no objections from residents’ to my participation; at a later meeting of the SRC I was declared a troublemaker by Mr. Kenny and residents were warned to stay away from me.

When the residents’ forum for my area was eventually established in February 2008 there was no election of residents to the SCR as Mr. Kenny had already appointed non-resident community workers as resident representatives.

I had been meeting with the Southill residents before and after the SRC meetings and we were constantly on the phone to each other; the LRA were in the process of producing “vision documents” for the regeneration areas and we would discuss what questions needed to be asked and what issues needed to be raised to ensure the best outcome for residents in this proposed €3 Billion redevelopment project that required the demolition of all our homes.

A total of 3,000 houses, most of which were privately owned, were targeted for demolition. Whoever was tapping my phone I felt sure it had something to do with that, like the caller had said: “it’s all to do with regeneration.”

Before I wrote to the Superintendent I contacted the my service provider, Eircom, to hear what they had to say about it;

I was advised that once the Gardaí made contact with them, that the investigation would begin with an Eircom engineer and a Garda calling to my home by appointment to inspect my telephone and if that proved fruitless they would then follow the line back to the exchange in order to locate the source of the tap.

I began my own investigation to try and find out the exact location of the Tipperary number. I started going through the telephone directory looking for 067 area code numbers. When I wasn’t doing that I was redialling the number in the hopes that somebody would answer and on Tuesday night (19/02/08) at around 10:30pm somebody did.

A young sounding man with a strong Dublin accent told me that I was calling a payphone in Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary.

The next day, after posting my letter to Superintendent O’Brien, I took a spin out to Borrisokane; it’s a 45 minute drive and there were two payphones in the town. The first one was located near the Fire Station and the second one, the one I was looking for, was directly outside the Garda Station.

The payphone outside the Garda Station in Borrisokane; it has since been removed
As I strongly suspected that the Gardaí were tapping my phone I contacted the Garda Ombudsman the following week to see if they were to ones I should be speaking to; I was told that they wouldn’t know what the correct Garda procedure was as it varied from station to station, that it wasn’t in their remit.


On the morning Monday 3rd of March 2008, the postman delivered a reply from Superintendent O’Brien; in it he informed that our Community Garda had been assigned to investigate the “unlawful interception call to and from” my number and that he would be in contact with me “in accordance with Garda Policy and Procedures associated with conducting such an investigation.” Bizarrely, the reply is dated 1st April 2008 and refers to my correspondence as having been dated “31st March 2008.”

Letter from the Superintendent
Later that day our Community Garda called by to take my statement; it wasn’t his first time in my home, he’d had many a cup of tea in my kitchen over the years. I asked him what were the procedures were in tracing a phone tap.

“To be honest Cathal I couldn’t tell you what they are, that’s a bit above my pay grade.” he said.

He told me that he hadn’t been sent to investigate my phone tap; that he’d been told to get a statement from me giving permission for the Gardaí to monitor my phone calls. Then he showed me his written orders from the Inspector.

I voiced my disappointment that his orders had been issued by the Inspector, but he said that in all likelihood the Superintendent has issued the instructions to the Inspector.

I explained that I wouldn’t be giving permission to have my land line monitored; that was the problem I had to begin with and I didn’t want anyone at all listening in to my calls. I told him that I now believed that it was the Gardaí that were tapping my phone and that it was an honest Garda that tipped me off.

I believe that this Garda had been listening to my phone call with the solicitor and realised that what he was doing was wrong; he wasn’t gathering intelligence on a suspected criminal, he was being used to spy on a law abiding citizen.

The only crimes that I had spoken of with the solicitor were those of the state; how it conspired to trample on the Constitutional property rights of its elderly citizens’, how they were bought out for a pittance and turned into tenants, how they were dispossessed. How the state was funding the scattering of life long neighbours into communities where they knew nobody. How stressful it was moving house, especially when you are elderly; we discussed the de-tenanting of Bourke Avenue and how 12 of the residents had died within 6-months of being moved out.

I believe that after listening to our conversation the Garda stopped recording, left the monitoring station in Henry Street and drove to Borrisokane to make his warning call. I don’t know why he went to such lengths, I suspect that he may have had business at the Garda Station or maybe it was the only clean pay phone in the region, whatever the reason I am grateful that he did.

The Community Garda took down my statement and read it back to me. I photographed it; it was only recently that I noticed that it had been incorrectly dated 3rd March 2007. What is it with Gardaí and the wrong dates?

My Garda statement
I thanked the Community Garda for taking my statement and hoped that he wouldn’t get in trouble for not fulfilling his written orders. I had a lot of respect for him, and still do; he was committed to Community policing and was a noticeable loss when he got transferred to a different area. 


I had a fair idea that it was the Gardaí that were tapping my phone, now I needed to confirm my suspicion about who they were tapping it for.

I decided to feed my eavesdroppers what Peter Wright described in his book “Spycatcher” as a “barium meal.” Barium is the substance that a patient has to ingest so their stomach and intestines can be x-rayed, it lets the doctor see what’s going on inside. I would have a conversation on the phone about regeneration and wait to see what showed up, as Wright put it:

“…in other words, offer a bait of sufficiently important intelligence that the two-legged source, if he existed, would have to relay it back to the Russians.”
It wouldn’t be long before I found out who my Russians were.

I fed them a tasty story that one of my neighbours was thinking about taking the offer of €40,000 and would go and live with his daughter and that other neighbours had said that if his house got boarded up than they would also sell up.

Two days later I got a text from Mr. Kenny asking me to meet for a pint. As I got the first round in he told me that the reason he wanted to meet up was out of respect for me; that he didn’t want to be going behind my back because he really appreciated all the work I had done for my community.

He told me that he believed that my neighbours had a lot of respect and admiration for me and that because of this they might be reluctant to disagree with me at our resident association meetings with the Regeneration Agency.

He said that he was aware that some people wanted to get out, that they had been in touch with his office and that they deserved the opportunity to move. He told me that he would be calling to my neighbours individually to discuss their options.

Mr. Kenny knew how I felt about ‘one-on-one’ meetings, at public meetings everyone hears what is said, but with ‘one-on-one’ the answers can be tailored to please the listener’s ears. I assured him that this was different as it was a private matter and that he had every right to call to my neighbours to discuss it with them.

I gave him their phone numbers and advised him to contact them before calling to their homes.

He got some land when he found out that nobody wanted to move. That barium is great stuff all the same.


I continued to pursue my request for a proper investigation into the phone tapping; the final contact I had from Supt. O’Brien was to inform me that the matter was now being investigated by the crime office in Dublin and that they would be in contact with me. I never heard from them and I was unable to find out any more about it.
Then out of the blue I got a letter from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC). The letter, dated 5th November 2008, acknowledged my “query” to their office and stated:
“The detail of you query to the Garda Ombudsman has now been considered. The Garda Ombudsman seeks clarification as to whether you wish that contact on 29 February 2008 to be considered as a complaint.”

GSOC Letter 1
I wrote back on 21st November 2008 to say that I wished to make a complaint about the subsequent and allegedly ongoing Garda investigation into my “query.”

GSOC replied on the 9th March 2009 to say that my complaint was out of time as more than 6-months had elapsed since I made my “query,” but advised me that if I could give them a good reason for the delay in making my complaint that it would be considered.

GSOC Letter 2
I informed GSOC that they had invited me to make a complaint 8 months after my “query” and that the complaint I made was about an ongoing investigation, therefore the complaint was still live, reiterating what I had stated in my first letter:

“I no longer use my landline to make calls regarding my Community activism and I also doubt the security of my mobile. Overall I am not satisfied that matter is being investigated properly and strongly suspect that the state is responsible for the illegal tapping of my phone.”

GSOC wrote back insisting that my complaint was dated as having been received on 29th February 2008 and was inadmissible on the grounds that:

“Your complaint is out of time, not having been made within a period of six months, beginning on the date of the conduct giving rise to your complaint. The Garda Ombudsman having considered your complaint finds, based on the information provided by you, that there is not good reason to extend the six (6) month time limitation in which a complaint can be made. The Garda Commissioner and the member concerned will be notified of this decision”
GSOC Letter 3
Even though I had not made a complaint against an individual Garda, as GSOC had implied in its final ruling, my complaint was still live and my phone was still being tapped. Basically I was being told ‘shut up; we’ll tap your phone if we want to and there is nothing you can do about it.’ 

I never did organise a public meeting with the solicitor to inform regeneration residents of their property rights; she told me that none of her colleagues were interested and that she had been approached by a Senior Counsel who told her that she was “on a crusade” and to “knock it on the head.”

I believe that my phone continued to be tapped until June 2011.


“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde
That quote from Oscar Wilde is a far from accurate statement as my second tale will reveal.

At the start of 2009 I called on the Regeneration Agencies to sponsor a clean-up of all areas under their remit; the Council did not have the resources and the Agencies were legally empowered by Ministerial Orders to do it.

I led a delegation of “regeneration” residents to Brussels to address the EU Petitions Committee in April 2009; it was the final hearing for an environmental petition that Kathy Sinnott’s MEP had helped to submit in 2007.

Our mission was to have the issue of illegal dumping and anti-social behaviour re-investigated in the context of the city-wide regeneration project. I was given 5-minutes to make our appeal.

Some of the many photos shown to the EU
I pointed out that the Public Health Inspector reports were ignored by our Council and the Regeneration Agencies. The EU bore witness to the third-world conditions that decent law-abiding residents had to endure as MEP's and Commissioners were shown recent photographs of illegal dumping displayed on a 10ft screen.

The MEP’s were shocked by what they saw:

"The commission have had the wool pulled over their eyes entirely. What I see is an absolute disgrace. When I was environment minister in the UK, if this came to me via a member of parliament, I would put a management order on Limerick City Council and demand they do something about it. This should be fixed period by the authorities." - British MEP Sir Robert Atkins
"These conditions are reminiscent of the developing world yet it is taking place in a developed country in the EU. We should look into the source of the information, and ask the question why letters printed with official letterheads are not worth the paper they are printed on." - Romanian MEP Victor Bostinaru
"This is a scandal. It is untenable. It is clear that EU citizens have been left defenceless. We must hold the local authorities to account." - Spanish MEP Willy Meyer Pleite.
"Obviously this is an impossible situation for people to live with, but this is a weapon of war. The reason this waste is here is that gangs rooted in drugs are using waste as a way of getting rid of people in decent neighbourhoods which then provides them with the community they need to operate. They burn out cars, they vandalise property, but more importantly they attack human beings, intimidate old people, and they murder."  - Munster MEP Kathy Sinnott
The state was found to have failed its obligations under EU Community Law and would have to pay a substantial fine if it continued to neglect its duty.

The state opted for the cheaper option and shortly after we returned from Brussels it was announced that the Regeneration Agencies were to give Limerick City Council €500,000 to sponsor a clean-up of areas targeted for regeneration. The clean-ups took place from July - September 2009.

The petition received national and international media coverage.

Official Limerick wasn’t happy and I was accused of “giving Limerick a bad name” by more than one irate Councillor and another one demanded to know where I got the photographs from and questioned my right to use them, not realising that I had visited the areas and taken them myself. No congratulations were offered for getting the Council the resources it needed to do its job.

By the end of 2009 the residents’ forum established by the Regeneration Agency for Ballinacurra Weston had disintegrated, so I contacted the residents that had resigned and we formed the Ballinacurra Weston Residents’ Alliance (BWRA) in early 2010.

The BWRA hit the ground running; we were soon represented on several local committees including the parish Umbrella Group and the Community & Voluntary Forum for Limerick City. The only organisation that refused to recognise or engage directly with the BWRA was the Regeneration Agency; the only real engagement we had with them was a war of words in the local press.

In October 2010 the BWRA had encouraged its members to apply for the “Stronger Together Parish Matching Grants Scheme” that was being piloted in the parish by Cormac Russell of Nurture Development, an initiative of Atlantic Philanthropies.

Most of our 13 applications were complementary; beautification and environmental projects such as to start a Memory Garden and restore Our Lady’s Marian Shrine, which had been badly vandalised and desecrated.

The vandalised and misused Marian Shrine in Ballinacurra Weston 2009
It was agreed to combine the projects into one grant of €2,000 and focus our efforts on restoring Our Lady’s shrine. Atlantic Philanthropies and the Regeneration Agency equally funded the scheme, which was managed by Neil Haran and Martin Galvin from the University of Limerick’s Supporting Social Inclusion and Regeneration in Limerick (SSIRL). 

The SSIRL was a partnership initiative of the University of Limerick, Limerick City Council and Atlantic Philanthropies.

It was agreed that the money would be made available to the BWRA through our St. Bernadette’s Credit Union account and that, weather pending, the work would start in April 2011.

In April 2011 we were also awarded an environmental grant of €1,000 from Limerick City Council to purchase gardening equipment.

When we went to the Credit Union to make arrangements to receive the Council money and to withdraw some funds for materials we discovered that the “Stronger Together” money had not been lodged. I contacted Cormac Russell to find out what the delay was and he asked if he could meet with some of us to discuss it.

We met in the Quality Hotel (now called the Maldron) and were introduced to Neil Haran and Martin Galvin for the first time; they seemed to be very nervous and wary of us.

We were told that there was a problem with the money, that Mr. Brendan Kenny, CEO of the Limerick Regeneration Agencies, didn’t want us to have it because he claimed that we were members of the Real IRA and that residents only supported us because we intimidated them.

After a brief and uncomfortable stunned silence I assured them that we were not in the Real IRA. The two university boys started going on about their family history and how their relatives were Republicans during the Tan and Civil wars. I got the distinct impression that they were not in the least bit assured.

I told them that I didn’t care if they had relatives that were Black & Tans or even currently on service with the Brits, we were not members of the Real IRA and a united Ireland was not a concern of the BWRA, our work in the community was evidence of that.

Cormac Russell agreed, saying that there was no real evidence to suggest that we were a front for paramilitaries and that he didn’t believe Mr. Kenny’s unnamed “highly reliable source” existed, but that didn’t solve the problem of getting the money to us.

I suggested that instead of the BWRA the money could be awarded to the parish Umbrella Group, which I was the Treasurer of, the Vice-Treasurer was also a member of the BWRA. Problem solved.

Mr. Kenny was agreeable to giving the money to the Umbrella Group, but before that happened he awarded money to the local Estate Management to restore the shrine and got the parish priest, Fr. Damien Ryan, to claim that the shrine belonged to the church and that Estate Management had his support.

By the time we got the money it had been announced that Limerick Civic Trust would be restoring the shrine. We channeled our efforts in to creating the Garden of Hope, which went on to scoop first prize of €5,000 in the Limerick Community Challenge funded by the J.P. McManus Charitable Foundation.

Video running time: 7 minutes

Despite what the plaque says, the “restoration” of the Marian Shrine by Limerick civic Trust did not involve any of the residents at any level; not even the children were allowed to plant the flowers. A proposal by the BWRA to establish a maintenance committee for the shrine was rejected by the Regeneration Agency and local Estate Management. Residents were not impressed with it as it now looked more like a monument than a shrine and it was eventually vandalised and has been left unrepaired and neglected.

The vandalised Marian Shrine in Ballinacurra Weston 2019
We did not make mention of the real reason behind the "mix up" in our Spring/Summer Newsletter as we did not want to promote the rumour as well. 

Nevertheless, the Real IRA rumour persisted and in November 2011 I was informed that a meeting of community workers in St. Mary’s Park were “warned all about us.” An associate of Mr Kenny’s form Paul Partnership had named me and two other community activists as “IRA men” and told them all to have nothing to do with us.

I would have complained to Paul Partnership at the time, but this would have revealed my source and they were afraid that they would lose their job.


As the rumours persisted we attempted to challenge them with a video parody of “The Message” by Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five:

Video Running time: 6 minutes

It had little effect on the rumours.

Carl O’Brien of the Irish Times was good enough to include the whispering campaign as an item in an article he wrote about gangland Limerick. He interviewed me in my capacity as Chair of Limerick Regeneration Watch, describing it as having been formed “to chronicle what it sees as broken promises, missed opportunities and a lack of meaningful consultation with the community.”

“McCarthy says the voices of residents are being ignored and describes the regeneration as a ‘State-sponsored land grab’. He says he and others in the organisation have been dismissed by authorities in a whispering campaign as being linked to republican or fringe political groups. McCarthy insists he has no political affiliations. ‘We just want to be heard. We want to have an input into how our communities are run, is that too much to ask?’” he wrote.

I had founded Limerick Regeneration Watch with other residents in March 2008, in a way it was a reaction to my phone being tapped; I felt that the choice I had was to either keep my head down and back off or make a stand and fight back. I chose the latter.

I always found it peculiar that none of the journalists (including RTE’s Primetime) that I spoke to thought that my phone tap story was newsworthy until I came to conclusion that they had their stories already composed by the time they contacted me; I was just confirming what they needed to write about

The national coverage that Limerick Regeneration Watch received only happened towards the end of the Regeneration Agencies 5-year cycle when then Minister for Environment, Phil Hogan TD, would have to renew an order for their continuation and up until then they had countless fluff pieces written about them and were featured as saviours in RTE shows like Nationwide and Dirty Old Towns.

I complained to these journalists that their “exposé” of Limerick Regeneration was very late in the day; millions in taxpayers’ money had been wasted, the damage had been done and nothing they wrote now was going to change that.

The truth is that the public needed to be informed about how bad the Agencies really were before the Minister announced their closure, so the media obliged; the journalists told me that they had been directed by their editors to interview me and feature my criticisms in their articles. For the most part, I’ve come to view the “fourth estate” like I do their colleagues in academia, as the functional house servants of the state.


My third and final tin foil tale is one that even I find hard to believe.

On Tuesday morning, 23rd July 2013, I got a visit to my home from two armed detectives from Roxboro Garda Station.

I saw the Garda patrol car pull up outside my house on my CCTV; they got out of the car and stood on my street looking around, like they were lost. They were in plain clothes, wearing shirt and pants and I could clearly see their semi-automatic pistols holstered to their belts. I was just about to go out and ask if they were okay when they opened my gate and came up the garden path.

I let them ring the bell before answering the door.

They told me they were investigating a crime that took place on our Boreen and asked if I would accompany them to the station to "get a few words" from me. They wouldn’t tell me what it was about, but stressed that I wasn't under arrest. They said that it was urgent and that they needed me to accompany them to the station now.

I invited them to come and interview me, but they insisted that they had to interview me at the station. I explained that I was unable to go with them as my wife was heading out and that I needed to be home to mind our children. I agreed to call to the station later that day at 2pm.

I kept wondering what it was about. What had happened on our Boreen? Had there been a rape or a murder? Surly I’d have heard if something like that had happened? Whatever it was, it must be serious if two armed detectives were assigned to investigate it.

I called to the station as agreed. When they had me in the interrogation room, with a video camera recording what was being said, I was informed that they had been asked by Limerick City Council to investigate some criminal damage to a fence in Weston Gardens. I was shown 3 photo's; one of the fence before it was "criminally damaged", another of the fence after the "criminal damage" and finally I was shown a photo with me cutting the fence

BEFORE: The unfinished dangerous and ugly fencing
AFTER: the dangerous fencing removed
Me cutting down the ugly and dangerous fencing
I was told that I had not been named as a suspect and when I asked where they came across the photo's one detective claimed to have discovered them all by himself on Facebook. 

I said that I found it strange that nobody from the Council had directed him to it as it is part of an album of 57 photos showing the work that my neighbours and I had done to improve our area and that it was shared with two Council run Facebook pages over a month ago.

Weston Gardens Residents' Association clean-up for Tidy Towns 2013

I admitted that I was indeed the individual seen in the photo cutting down the fence and informed the armed detectives that I had received verbal permission from a Council official and that fencing was taken away by the contractor that had originally installed it and that I was sure that both would confirm this.

I asked the detectives if they thought it strange that they had been asked to investigate an incident that occurred nearly a year ago and enquired how often they had been asked by the Council to investigate the hundreds of houses in the regeneration zones that have been looted for copper and burnt-out; I was told that they had never been asked to investigate a single one of them.

Here's a sample of some of the many daytime fires that occurred in Ballinacurra Weston:

A small sample of the un-investigated daytime arson

I informed the detectives that while the photos are part of an album entitled "Weston Gardens June 2013", I had in fact cut the fencing in August 2012 and that our residents association had intended to paint it but the Council didn't give us our grant until April 2013, so we felt it was legitimate to include it as part of 2013’s work for Tidy Towns.

I informed the detectives that the WGRA had been asking the Council to take down the extra fencing since it was first erected 2004 as it failed to function as an effective barrier - it was never finished and it was nothing more than an eyesore.

Even though they were more than aware of it, I reminded them that youths and unsupervised children tend to climb over the fence at the unfinished section where the Council have provided a leg up for them with rock armour; there is a shear 30 foot drop further up the wall and it remains accessible to this very day.

The other side of the fence: there is a 30-foot drop at the far end of the Clarina Park site.
I asked them if my neighbours and I were going to be charged with damaging the other bit of ugly Council fencing that we made into a gate in 2010 or with damaging the gardens of the derelict Council-owned houses on my avenue because we cut the grass and trim the hedges, which saves them €3,000 annually (that's what the Council's preferred contractors, Castle Engineering, charged to cut the grass in the 3 gardens in 2008).

Me cutting down some fencing in 2010

Me cutting down some fencing in 2010

Transformed into a functional gate 2010

The armed detectives both agreed that the fencing looked better after than before. They concluded the interview and said they would check out my story and get back to me; I never heard any more from them about it.

It was a surreal experience.

I wonder if they still have the video tape, I’d love to see it.

So what was behind this waste of Garda time?

I would have to guess it was because I had been helping residents in regeneration areas to make complaints about the Council-owned boarded-up/derelict houses, which the housing department are legally obliged to keep clean and secure, also the WGRA was having a formal war of words with the Council over proposals that would have undermined residents security and we had asked that they agree a Safety & Security plan with us.

I had also just been elected to the Council’s Strategic Policy Committee for Environment by the Community & Voluntary sector; maybe they were hoping I would have to resign with the shame of a criminal conviction.

I believe that the Council provided the Gardaí with the “evidence” and if my face had been visible in the photo that I would have been arrested. If I had gone with the armed detectives when requested it would have appeared to onlookers that I had been arrested for something serious.

Those whispers, they hadn’t gone away you know.

It was worrying that the Gardaí were so agreeable to “investigate” me with armed detectives in front of my neighbours. What would they do next, raid our home and turn it inside out as they looked for clues in their big investigation?


The oath taken by Gardaí reads as follows:

"I hereby solemnly and sincerely declare (before God) that—

  • I will faithfully discharge the duties of a member of the Garda Síochána with fairness, integrity, regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality, upholding the Constitution and the laws and according equal respect to all people,
  • while I continue to be a member, I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all my duties according to law, and
  • I do not belong to, and will not while I remain a member form, belong to or subscribe to, any political party or secret society whatsoever.”
The current Garda motto is “Working with communities to protect and serve” and over the years most of the Gardaí I have encountered try their best to live up to it.

One Garda in particular, our local Sergeant, did everything he could to try and establish a formal connection between the Gardaí and the BWRA so that we could attend and be represented on the Southside Regeneration Committee, but without the support of his superiors he was unsuccessful. Such was his dedication to Community policing that he took the austerity hit on his pension and did not retire until he was required to by law.

It was on the advice of a Garda detective that I formed the Weston Gardens Residents Association with my neighbours in 2003 and the Gardaí were instrumental in getting the Council to meet with us; the Gardaí were always supportive of our efforts and our Community Gardaí were extremely dedicated.

All of my efforts to resolve the issues my neighbours and I had with anti-social and criminal behaviour were constitutional and legal; I explored every legal avenue and the force of argument was my only means. I was never an enemy of the state; the use of the Gardaí by the state and its agents to spy, defame, harass and intimidate me was an abuse of power. From where I was standing the state and its agents were the enemy of the people.

Since when was defending property rights and promoting voluntarism in the community a crime?

I believe that the majority of Gardaí I encountered in my three tales took their oath seriously; that is why one tipped me off about my phone being tapped and why the Community Garda and the armed detectives were less than thrilled about their assignments, but orders are orders at the end of the day.

Like the Garda oath, the community groups I worked with were non-party political and we would lobby all our politicians for support; we were polite and friendly when we met with Ministers and never sought to disrupt their public events or deny them freedom of movement. We wanted to work with the powers that be to improve our communities for the benefit of residents. We were not subversives trying to overthrow the state; we were community activists trying to save our estates.

The state-sponsored land grab that was Limerick Regeneration got long fingered when the Agencies powers were transferred to the Council by Ministerial Order in July 2012.

As I had predicted from day one, Mr. Kenny and his unqualified cronies returned to Dublin to resume their well-paid Council jobs and took with them most of the blame for the “mistakes” made during their 5-year tenure. Over 1,000 houses had been demolished in all four areas, with only 54 units built; 34 in Moyross and 20 in Southill, both developments were built on previously undeveloped green sites.

My hopes that the Council would do things differently were short lived and it became necessary to protest. Our efforts were supported and co-ordinated by the Gardaí, who suggested that we could march up and down the Hyde road to slow, but not stop, traffic.

Running time: 33 minutes. Filmed between May - September 2012, this video features interviews with residents and documents the impact of "regeneration" has on the area - depopulation and boarding up of houses, which are systematically looted for copper used for drug/drink parties and eventually burnt-out.
As the video shows, much of the looting and burning of houses took place during the day under the “watchful” eye of unmonitored CCTV cameras. The 2007 Fitzgerald Report, the catalyst for establishing the Limerick Regeneration Agencies, had promised a “dedicated Garda service” for regeneration areas that would ensure the areas were patrolled 24/7. Despite claims to the contrary from politicians and senior Gardaí, this never happened and patrols were few and far between; it was as if the Gardaí had been ordered to stay out of the areas.

The protests were held weekly on the Hyde Road throughout August and September 2012 with the final protest outside City Hall. In that time the BWRA contacted all 166 TD’s and 60 Senators individually, we also contacted all the relevant agencies and community-based service providers. While most of the Limerick based politicians and organisations ignored our email we received a marvellous response from national politicians and organisations; their representations to the Council were instrumental in getting the dangerous and derelict houses demolished,

Homeowners continued to have their constitutional property rights undermined as they were bought out for a pittance and in some cases the verbal threat of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) were used when the incentive of unchallenged anti-social and criminal behaviour wasn’t enough to force the residents out. Of course the Council never used CPO’s as the courts would have given homeowners a better deal than was on offer from the Council.

Council offer

As you can see from the above letter, the Council was buying out homeowners to clear the land for developers and facilitate “regeneration” from the beginning. Indeed, the Council began de-tenanting in April 2007 as soon as the Fitzgerald Report was published and 2-months before then Minister for Environment, Dick Roche TD, established the Regeneration Agencies. This created a situation where boarded up Council houses were peppered throughout the areas, next door to the privately owned and occupied homes; this was how the Council used intimidation by proxy to cheat residents out of the constitutional property rights. 

BWRA Meme - Crecora Ave

BWRA Meme - Crecora Ave

The elected Councillors voted to approve every single buy-out and never once questioned the low price or change in status from homeowner to tenant. The ongoing antisocial and criminal behaviour and lack of a Garda presence ensured that residents, in particular elderly residents, jumped at such offers rather than continue to live in fear. Not one individual was ever arrested or prosecuted for the hundreds of incidents of looting and arson. 


The power shift from Regeneration Agencies to Council made no difference to contempt that the powers that be had for residents and this was highlighted by the farcical non-statutory consultations that the Council held in March 2013.

On Friday 27th of September 2013, the then Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Jan O'Sullivan TD, launched the Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation Plan (LRFIP) to invited guests in the Thomond Suite at Thomond Park. The 506 page document, which was claimed to be the product of the consultations, outlined the Councils intentions for "regeneration" areas over the next 10-years.

The new plan was mostly centred on refurbishment, but it also targeted a selection of occupied homes for demolition without the knowledge of the residents. I visited each of the targeted households with a copy of the proposal and advised residents to make contact with the Office of Regeneration; the utter contempt of targeting people’s homes for demolition without their prior knowledge or agreement is palpable.

Very few “regeneration” residents had been invited to attend the LRFIP launch and members of Limerick Regeneration Watch had to embarrass our invitations out of Minister O’Sullivan as the Council’s Office of Regeneration had made it clear they didn’t want us there.

Copy of the plan that I gave to residents with their homes red-lined for demolition
The Council’s contempt for residents continued when on 23rd November 2013 an edited copy of the plan for Ballinacurra Weston was left outside our front doors with a letter from the Council informing residents that we had 11 days to make a submission. While we were all delighted to see Our Lady’s mural from our award winning Garden of hope featured prominently in the LRFIP and on the cover of Ballinacurra Weston edition, we were disappointed that the role Ballinacurra Weston Residents’ Alliance was not acknowledged and we were concerned that residents would believe that this was indicative of our support for the plan.

Front cover of the Council's regeneration plan
The WGRA and the BWRA made a joint submission and organised a postcard campaign for resident’s to make submissions calling for real community participation in the regeneration process. 

While our submission resulted in the Council correcting 37 errors (errors that would never had been made if the Council had consulted properly with residents) our call for real community participation and an end to the boarding up of houses was completely ignored.

The corrected plan was presented to City Councillors on 24th February 2014. Our proposals (which they had all been emailed copies off), such as the orderly depopulation of areas through negotiation with residents on a block-by-block basis, were ignored and the Councillors voted unanimously to approve the plans; the Council and the OoR could now continue with its destructive policy of boarding-up individual houses without any regard for the negative impact it has on the adjoining homes while claiming it had a democratic mandate from the Councillors to do so.

None of our Councillors had bothered to even study the plan (I was even asked by one Councillor if I had really read it) and they had adopted the plan as policy without any real debate, apparently they had more pressing matters to attend to; the renaming of a bridge had taken up all their time in the preceding weeks.

The Councillors had the collective power to demand that changes were made to the plan, but chose not to exercise it.

By now I had acquired some power of my own as the Community & Voluntary Forum’s (CVF) representative on the Council’s Environmental Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) and had some success in raising the issue of wandering horses and getting the SPC to hold a special meeting on 7th April 2014.

I informed the meeting that there was unanimous support from the CVF for the establishment of horse projects throughout the city. I said that the current situation was untenable; there were 222 horses seized in 2013 at a cost of €280,000 and that you would be forgiven for thinking that none at all were seized, that the issue of wandering horses was a constant concern for many communities.

I said that Council was fighting a losing battle and the City needed to be reconciled with the horse; responsible horse owners should be facilitated and licensed, and that the establishment of horse projects would have a positive influence on youth that had slipped through the cracks of the education system and that it would help eliminate the problem of wandering horses. I also suggested that a pound should be reopened in Limerick to ensure adequate enforcement of any new regulations which would end what is effectively an unenforceable ban on horses in the city.

Some Houyhnhnms wander in to my garden to wish me success with my proposal

All of the Councillors had been invited to attend, but only 6 did. The Council official chairing the meeting said that several projects would be needed for the city and that the communities concerned should be encouraged and supported to manage such projects, but because not enough Councillors were present to take a vote that matter would be postponed until after the local elections in May 2014 for the incoming Council to deal with.

The newly elected Council never got back to it and as we approach the 2019 local elections the matter continues to be unresolved.

I did not resume my role as the CVF representative on the Environment SPC for the new Council as I had been nominated to a newly established statutory committee, the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC). My nomination had been rejected by the Chief Executive, but changes to the Local Government Reform Act 2014 and the Council’s insistence on gender quotas made me literally the only man for the job (the majority of the CVF were women) and I attended my first LCDC meeting in July 2014.

The inability of Councillors to wield power for the benefit of the communities that they are supposed to represent is nothing compared to cruel malevolence of Council officials when wielding theirs.

In April 2014 the BWRA made a successful application to the OoR for €2,500 funding for our Garden of Hope and on the 19th June 2014 it felt like an historic day for the BWRA as we signed a Service Level Agreement with the OoR. However, our celebration at this significant recognition for our group was short lived when we returned home from signing the contract to discover a contractor measuring up our garden.

The contractor informed us that he had been hired by the Council’s OoR to level the Clarina Park site including our garden. Initially the OoR denied that they had hired anyone to do anything, before eventually admitting it. We tried everything possible to change their minds, but to no avail. They were more than aware how strongly we felt about it:

2013: BWRA appeal to Council not to knock our garden wall when they are demolishing the last two houses in the Clarina Park estate - running time 4 minutes

In November 2014 workers and machinery arrived on site and fenced off the area, by the end of the month the area including the garden was levelled and a load of ugly rock armour was dumped along the perimeter.

BWRA rock armour meme

When we tried to return the money to the OoR they told us to keep it. This was the beginning of the end of the BWRA; the Garden of Hope was a focal point for community activity, especially the children during the Easter and summer holidays. It was a crushing blow, and unable to form a working committee at our poorly attended AGM in January 2015, the organisation was disbanded.

13 years after they were burnt out and 10-years after the Council acquired them, work finally begins on No.s 1,2 & 3 Weston Gardens

In August 2014 work had started on the refurbishment of the 3 burnt out houses on my avenue and with it came a wave of anti-social and criminal behaviour. Youths would regularly gather at the top of our street at the right-of-way to Ballinacurra Weston, light a big bonfire and have a session; stoning our homes, harassing passers-by and breaking into the site was their main entertainment.

A Yahoo's drinking session at the right-of-way between Weston Gardens and Ballinacurra Weston

The WGRA had been trying to get the OoR to discuss and agree a Safety & Security plan with us, but they refused to have formal meetings with us. All of that would change in 2015 thanks to the power I would wield.

By the end of 2014 the CVF had been disbanded and the Council was in the process of establishing the Public Participation Network (PPN) and with no CVF to report to or take instructions from I was now an independent Community & Voluntary representative on the LCDC.

In February 2015 I was unable to attend the LCDC meeting due to a stolen jeep on my street attempting to break through ito Ballinacurra Weston by continuously ramming into the rock armour and I was concerned for my children’s’ safety returning home from school.

Gardaí recover the stolen jeep

The rock armour at the right of way between Weston Gardens and Ballinacurra Weston
I would later learn that my absence meant that the LCDC was unable to vote.

You see, none of the Councillors on the LCDC could vote because they all had a conflict of interest. Only 3 out of the LCDC's 19 members could vote; myself, the other Community & Voluntary member and the Chief Executive. Everyone else had to leave the room before we voted. The LCDC had just enough non conflicted members to allow it to function within the law. How dysfunctional is that?

That dysfunction would mean that the OoR would meet with the WGRA.

From 27th March to the 27th October 2015 the WGRA held a series of scheduled formal meetings with the OoR; these were chaired by the LCDC’s Chief Officer. In attendance were representatives of the 6 surviving households in Weston Gardens, all 7 of our Councillors for Limerick City West, Senior Council officials, engineer, architects, the Tenants Enforcement Officer, the local Garda Superintendent and Inspector; our meetings were better attended than the official Southside Regeneration Committee (SRC) that we were excluded from and within 6-months we would achieve more for the area than they ever did:

  • The removal of the rock armour and the installation of bollards.
  • The installation of extra street lighting (led) on our Boreen.
  • The painting of our Boreen.
  • The installation of an additional cctv camera
  • The monitoring of cctv cameras on the Southside albeit on a part-time basis (they are now monitored full-time)
  • Ensured that the Council tenants were law abiding and would be from the regeneration area.
We achieved so much that the board of management for the community centre wrote to the OoR complaining that a group that was not part of the official “participation” structures were getting things done. Ironically, the representatives of the community centre and their sub committees had voted to continue our exclusion from the SRC in August 2014; imagine what we might have achieved if we had worked together.

On 6th October 2015 I attended what was officially my last LCDC meeting; the PPN had been established and was set to replace me. Before we voted on the financial reports my Community & Voluntary colleague turned and jokingly remarked to me “oh I feel so powerful right now.”

The WGRA held our last meeting with the OoR on 27th October 2015. In attendance were representatives of the 6 surviving households in Weston Gardens, an OoR official and two junior Council officials. The OoR official was very hostile and refused to accept a copy of our proposal, “Less Prison…More Park;” a big difference in attendance compared previous meetings; my power was spent.

I had used my power without ever once mentioning that I had it and I had used it for the benefit of my family, my neighbours and the wider community.

In January 2016 my Community & Voluntary colleague and I were requested by the Chief Officer to stay on the LCDC until May 2016; our PPN replacements both had “conflicts of interest” and needed time to resolve them. We were needed to keep up appearances and even though I would no longer have any power as there would be no crucial votes until June, I agreed out of a sense of civic duty and gratitude to the Chief Officer for his sincere assistance with in dealing with the OoR.

In May 2016 I took an extended break from community activism. I returned in January 2017, confining my voluntarism to advising community groups and helping individuals make representation to the Council or complaints to the Ombudsman.

My conflict with the state and its agencies happened because I wanted to keep my home and they want to demolish it and clear the land for developers; we had conflicting agendas.

Power was abused to tap my phone and to send armed detectives to my door to put the frighteners on me. Power was abused in the boarding of houses and the use of intimidation by proxy to acquire property cheaply.

The Gardaí were nowhere to be found as houses were looted for copper and burnt out.

14-years after they were burnt out and 11 years after the Council acquired the, the 3 houses are refurbished and re-let to good tenants

I did my best to engage respectfully with the state and its agencies over the years and used every legal means at my disposal to get them to listen. From running in the General and Local Elections to petitioning the EU as an individual and participating in a failed collective complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, I even lobbed the United Nations at them once, everything I did was legal and above board.

My experiences are mild in comparison to others with people being sent to prison to "purge their contempt of court” for challenging evictions. 

The events at Strokestown, where Gardaí stood idly by as a retired Garda was manhandled and beaten by ex-loyalist paramilitaries employed by KBC Bank to evict a family from their home, were shocking.

While the state is happy to cede more and more of our Nation’s sovereignty to the EU it is busy consolidating its own.

Individual liberties, such as Freedom of Speech, are now under attack and if the advocates for “hate speech” legislation get their way we could have the Gardaí arresting people for Tweets and Facebook posts like they do in the UK while serious and violent crimes get less attention. It’s worrying to think that our Gardaí might be ordered to arrest and prosecute people for frivolous things such as “misgendering” someone or for having an umutual opinion contrary to the state’s official position on serious issues, such as mass immigration and demographic change.

The more power that the state gives itself, the more corrupt it will become.

The further removed we are from power as individuals, the less free we will be.

I was never an enemy of the state; the state is becoming the enemy of the people.


No.'s 1, 2 & 3: My community activism began in 2001, when three of my neighbours were burnt out of their homes over a 6-month period. Following agreement with residents the Council acquired the 3 properties in 2005. Funded plans to rebuild the houses were withheld by the Council in 2006 and in 2007 our area was handed over to the Regeneration Agency for demolition. We refused to move and prevented the Agency from demolishing the 1, 2 & 3 in 2008 by insisting that they abide by our agreement with the Council that there would be no demolition without the immediate implementation of plans to build; if we had not done this there would be an empty  field there today.

As a consolation for refusing to sign and lodge the funded plans, the Council's Director of Housing authorised the funding of paint and equipment for the WGRA, so that we could at least brighten the place up while we negotiated with the Agency.

Mural painted by my wife and I in April 2008 on the gable end of our terrace. It expresses how our residents saw "regeneration" as a state-sponsored land grab. 
Our negotiations had ended in March, when the Agency insisted that we end the WGRA join their residents forum. By maintaining our independence we ensured that we retained our homes and restored our area.
2015: The rock armour that was dumped the by the Council in 2007 is gone, replaced by more appropriate bollards. There used to be five houses in the field that the horse is wandering past; they were never replaced. The occupied homes next to the field are targeted for demolition. The horse is wandering into the Clarina Park site.

2015:The Clarina Park site used to be an estate with 49 perfectly good houses built in 1996; the area was completely de-tenanted and demolished from 2007 to 2012. Visit Google Maps to see what it looked like in 2009 after 2-years of "regeneration." The site was unsecured and is green-lined in the LFRIP for private development in the long term.
No demolition, no state-sponsored smash-and-grab, just refurbishment and the 120-year old houses are as good as new. No empty field for horses and illegal dumping, just cosy homes; it shouldn't have taken 14-years, but we got there in the end.