I didn’t wish to go on blind faith that the stories I had heard of Mayor Jim Long’s aggressive and defensive nature were true so I decided to contact him myself. I contacted him, armed with a full understanding of the Derelict Sites Act of 1990, which gives the city council the right to contact the private owners of a derelict site and if, after a 14 day period of the issuance of notice, said owners have not acted accordingly, the council can then move on to the site, perform the necessary repairs and pursue the owners for the cost.
Mayor Jim Long’s first response to me was affable and friendly and he even included a startlingly brief document dating back to 2008, stating that contact had been made with the private owners of Kate O’Brien’s house. He suggested that they had had 3 years of negotiations which achieved nothing.
I thanked him for his reply and suggested that private ownership is not an impedement to the city council doing their work under section 10 - 30 of the Derelict Sites Act. It was at this point that Mayor Jim Long became decidedly antsy, leaving me with no recourse but to lodge a complaint with Minister Phil Hogan. Should I have no positive reaction to this complaint, I will have to take this to the local and national media of Ireland. Since this was my own coversation with Mayor Jim Long, under the moniker of Captain Purplehead, I am going to print it here word for word for you to read for your self and decide what kind of man our council has appointed as Mayor.
This is my opening mail:
Hello Mayor Long.
I have read several online posts about your upcoming visit to Spain to attend a ceremony where a street will be named in honour of one of our greatest daughters, Kate O’Brien. I am unsure how well versed you are in the importance of Kate O’Brien but I cannot hide my delight that she is being honoured in this fashion. Whilst I believe there should be representation, I believe you must be thoroughly ashamed of the fact that Kate O’Brien’s house has been allowed to slide into such a state of dereliction. I have conveyed my dismay at this, with accompanying photographs to the relevant local council in Spain and it is my fervent hope that you act on this immediately.
Mayor Long, you would be surprised at the amount of bad feeling that has been generated by this. I was surprised by the sheer volume of online articles alluding to this very subject. I am a Limerick son but I left many years ago. I’ve been home for a few weeks and I’m dismayed by some of what I’ve heard about Limerick city council. I must say that I’m also disappointed by your contribution to my home town. You and your fellow councillors do not appear to be in any rush to attend to vital work to cheer up our wonderful city.
I sincerely hope you listen to the public that you represent and see to the necessary repairs to Kate O’Brien’s house.
Mayor Jim Long came back with a very normal and friendly response:
Hi J.P. thank you for your email and your comments, firstly I am invited by the Irish/Spanish authorities as Mayor of Limerick, this would apply to any person who holds this office, I am honoured to be able to perform the Civic duties of Mayor in the naming of Kate O Brien Street in Avilla, I am a huge fan of hers for many years, yes you are correct her birth-place and home of her first five years is in a very bad state, I and at least seven other councillors have over the past six years being lobbying campaigning to have this property taken in charge and restored restored by Limerick City Council, I have received huge support front the City Manager, the Arts Council of Ireland, the O.P.W the department of environment, the Kate O Brien committee, and many others, I am in constant dialogue with Tom Quinilivan who acts as a mediator on a regular basis, NOW for the real facts of the issue you have raised, the owners of the property the Loyde brothers have being offered a sale price which was refused, many other options were/are before them for consideration ti resolve this matter, we as a council are engaged in a very lengthy process to act as the property is in PRIVATE ownership you should be aware that nobody/anybody can enter or carry out remedial works without the owners permission, having stated all the real facts I would be confident that this property can and will be preserved/restored as soon as the key players come to terms of rational thinking, as for the state of the inner core of my City, private ownership also plays a huge part of the problem but I am engaged with property developers investors trying to work around the ecominic downturn the very present recession and the uncertainty from the banks, I am enclosing an updated report from our property section to go some way in addressing your concerns, if you wish I can/will gladly meet with you any time you are in Limerick or maybe some hard suggestions that I can take on board. again thank you for your concerns. Jim
Mayor Jim Long was kind enough to provide the following information
Of BORU HOUSE/KATE O’BRIEN HOUSE
Derelict Sites Action:
• July 2008: Limerick City Council Derelict Sites Officer inspection report on the property
• October 2008: Notice of Intention to Enter Site in Derelict Sites Register Served
• December 2008: Property entered on Derelict Sites Register
• December 2008 : Notice of Valuation of Derelict Site
• December 2010 : Demand for Derelict Sites Levy issued
• April 2011: Limerick City Council Derelict Sites Officer inspected the property with an updated list of remedial works
Various meetings and correspondence have taken place over the last 3 years in relation to getting remedial works done on this site.
In April 2011, Limerick City Council issued a list of Remedial works designed to secure the site, prevent the anti-social behaviour and take the site out of dereliction. A meeting was held at City Hall on 12th May 2011 with 3 City Council officials and 2 of the owners(Lloyd brothers) followed by an “on site” meeting with the Derelict Sites Officer (Philip Leahy of Limerick City Council).
A further “on site” meeting was held on 25th May 2011 and an updated list of works was issued.
Security work to prevent unauthorised access, removal of shrubbery/building materials was completed. There was a large amount of refuse on site and this has also been removed.
However, there are a number of works still outstanding and there are currently being followed up with the owners.
“However, there are still a number of works still outstanding and there(?) are currently being followed up with the owners”. That is putting it mildly, to say the least. Since, in this document, the Council have admitted that the site is in dereliction, then why not use the full power of the Derelict Sites Act of 1990, which says: “Section 11(5) lets a LA (local authority) do the work:
(5) Where a person on whom a notice under this section has been served
does not, within the period specified in the notice or in the notice
as amended, as the case may be, comply with the requirements of the
notice, the local authority who served the notice may take such steps
(including entry on land by authorised persons in accordance with
section 30 ) as they consider reasonable and necessary to give effect
to the terms of the notice or the notice as amended, as the case may
be, and may recover any expense thereby incurred from the person on
whom the notice or the notice as amended, as the case may be, was
served and who is the owner or occupier as a simple contract debt in
any court of competent jurisdiction.
There is also no mention in the Mayor’s document to me that Kate O’Brien’s house is a protected structure, which it is. More reason for the City Council to go in and get this work done.
So I thought I’d point this out to Mayor Jim Long, along with some friendly advice.
Thank you for your response and I’m glad that some effort has been made. However, I believe that the Derelict Sites Act of 1990 could have been evoked more effectively. Surely there is no reason why this site remains in its awful current state. I may not live here anymore but I always take a great interest in my native city. The issue of private ownership is a non-runner when you consider the derelict sites act.
I’m sure you’re aware of section 10 of the derelict sites act of 1990 which not only allows you to take action in the case of Kate O’Briens house but states the the city council is obliged to take action. Words like “shall” are very specific legally. Eventhough I am an ex-pat, I am extremely coversant with Irish law. My suggestion therefore is for the city council to take this matter in hand and have a real start on work by the time you leave for Spain. This will certainly calm the wave of ill-will I have experienced.
Having said that, your reply to me was both pleasant and officious and I would humbly suggest that you use this approach to calm some of the, frankly, terrible feeling towards Limerick City Council and to you as Mayor. You have not shown me any reason to share that ill feeling but I have conversed with many people over the past two weeks about the City, its council and you as Mayor and there is a perception of you as an immoveable and boorish man. Again, I have no reason to share this view given our brief exchange but it is there. I hate to see this because for our city to move forward, we need unity. I firmly believe that once work starts on Kate O’Briens house, a start can also be made to repair the rift between the city council and quite a few of Limerick’s citizens. Thank you for your invite to meet but I will be leaving in two days and I won’t have time for that. In answer to your request for hard suggestions, I do not believe that there should be anything difficult about repairing the city council’s image in tandem with the repair of Kate O’Brien’s house. I would suggest a public meeting where all grievances can be aired in an open an honest exchange. Wonders can be achieved with light application of openness and sincerity.
Quite pleasant and open, or so I thought. Mayor Jim Long must have thought otherwise because he immediately became defensive and even distanced himself from knowing anything about the process in his next reply to me. He even distanced the council from any responsibility regarding Kate O’Brien’s house. So you can see, during the course of our conversation, how he went from being a fan of Kate’s to saying her residence is just like any other house that goes into disrepair through neglect. Still no mention of the “protected structure” status of Kate O’Brien’s house.
Hi P.J. I relayed the real facts to you, maybe you can offer the City manager some free legal advise, as you have went about shooting the mesenger, I will however pass on your sentiments. I note that your reply like others makes NO effort in putting pressure on the owners where the real problem lies, would we live in a great Country where the local authority would move in on all vacant derelict irresponsible owner propirities do them up restore them and get a very thank you very much sir, perception of a situation dose NOT hide the real facts,Jim
At this response, I was well within my rights to let loose but I still held fire because, remember, the purpose of this is to get something done with Kate O’Brien’s house, not antagonise Mayor Jim Long. So I replied:
My apologies if my response came through as aggressive. It was not meant that way and I certainly didn`t expect such a hostile response. This now seems to coroborate what others have told me about their dealings with you. I have supplied you with facts, sir. I have provided you with an extract from the Derelict Site Act of 1990, by which you are bound. Yes, it would be great to put pressure on the owners but I don`t have their contact details. You are the first citizen of this city and, as such, should be someone I should be able to approach without fear of reproach. I honestly fear now that you are not and I am more than insulted by your response. I may no longer reside in Limerick but it is still in my heart. Surely the most important thing is that this historic site is preserved.
As for free legal advice, I believe I have given you that in my perusal of, and reference to, the aforementioned act. I will not continue with these mails to you as I don’t think you are someone who changes his position on anything. That, I fear, is an ailment that runs through Irish politics. I sincerely hope that on my next visit to my home town that I don’t have to look at an eyesore that should stand in proud remembrance of one of Limerick’s finest exports.
I do reserve my right to agree with those who have given, what is now clearly, accurate testimony of your staunchly defensive manner and to support them in any way I can.
Good day to you sir, and with the greatest respect I can muster, it is my fervent hope that the next incumbent is more approachable than you have been.
Mayor Jim Long, now clearly in full denial of the facts and of me as a relevant complainant simply replied.
Eye. Eye, Captain
This seemed to indicate an end to proceedings but, ever the one to get the last word in, I decided a few home truths and some advice on my future course of action.
You really are a petty man. I was hoping to help to get something done with Kate O’brien’s house but I’m clearly wasting my time talking to you about it. I should probably speak to someone who is actually capable of having a conversation. I must say, speaking to you has not helped matters and is not helping my high blood pressure, something that gave rise to the moniker to which you have just referred. I leave on Tuesday but I will be keeping a close eye on everything that is happening with Kate’s house. Since I have been met with bluster and nonsense from you, I will lodge my complaint directly with Minister Hogan and supply him with a full breakdown of the Derelict Site Act. This is the last mail I shall send you.
I was sure this was to be the last of it and promptly sent a complaint to Minister Phil Hogan about the state of Kate O’Brien’s house and the state of the current Mayor of Limerick City. I wasn’t expecting another response from Mayor Jim Long but he sent this:
AS you leave on Tuesday, I can meet you any time tomorrow between 9.30am and 5.30pm, I will request the file I will ask the property, environmental, and ma
Now, I haven’t curtailed that mail, that is how it arrived. I took it as a normal mail and sent this diplomatic response. I must admit that my first instinct was to tell him to fuck off but I have asked that people refrain from using abusive language in their dealings with him so I wasn’t about to start and it would have been counter-productive anyway. Here’s my response:
That is very kind of you, Mayor, but I won’t have time to meet you. I’m not sure, given your earlier comments, that it would be a particularly productive meeting. The Derelict Sites Act allows Limerick City Council to proceed in renovating and preserving Kate O’Brien’s house. This is something I’ve followed up with several friends of mine in the local legal profession. I’m genuinely at a loss as to why this hasn’t been acted upon already as you can act within 14 days of issuance of notice. I am aware that this is not your sole responsibility and that you may be coming in for some flack as you are the Mayor chosen to go to the street naming ceremony. Failure to act with the full power bestowed upon you by the aforementioned act is the responsibility of the entire Limerick City Council, not just you. Blame must also be staunchly apportioned to the people who own the property but it is now time to act.
Mayor, there is a massive groundswell of disgust at the state of Kate O’Brien’s house. It’s all people have talked to me about since I’ve been home. This passion may seem to you to be some kind of persecution of your office but I would suggest that you are better served conversing with these people than abusing them. I have seen a couple of different email conversations with people where you have become defensive and downright abusive and threatening. This I can understand, in a way, because I can imagine you are being bombarded with correspondence. However, a man holding office as high as yours needs to be far more diplomatic than you have been. This is just a suggestion and is in no way meant to be a slight on you as a person. This is a justified observation, given the evidence before me. My suggestion to you would be to contact all of the people who have emailed you about this, ask for a clean slate on all sides and meet with the purpose of pushing forward a resolution. It does not mean the Council goes around doing up every private house that has fallen into dereliction, as you have suggested earlier in our conversation. I would suggest that Kate O’Brien’s house should be considered more of a monument to someone who put us on the map in a very positive way. I have contacted Phil Hogan to see if there’s anything that can be done from his side.
Before I finish this mail, I will say that I’ve no interest in hearing anymore of your defensive comments. I am passionate about this subject to the point where I’ve spent much of my holidays in meetings with reputable engineers and solicitors, with whom I am acquainted,
to better understand what can be done in this instance.
Mayor Jim Long is more than welcome to comment on this site but I must advise that the administrators of this site claim absolutely no responsibility for the views of people replying to his comments. I will continue the fight to get something done with Kate O’Brien’s house because its lapse into dereliction is an embarrassment to Limerick City. Be under no illusion that Limerick City Council HAS the resources, both legal and actual, to deal with this. I think you can see from this conversation that they have no intention of doing so. So, again, I urge you to email the Mayor’s office respectfully and demand that they do something. Do not hurl abuse at him and do not enter into arguments with him. If you wish to post any responses you have received, put them in the comments section and I will paste them into the main part of this post.
Let’s make our local authority do their job!
Mayor Jim Long has responded to my last mail to wish me a safe trip home. I have no idea what calmed him down but I do appreciate the sentiment. I will reiterate that, should you contact the Mayor, please treat him with the respect his office deserves. If you are greeted with abuse, I’ll leave that up to yourselves. As for the comments asking me to publish the other email conversation, which I must tell you is a hundred times worse than the one above, it is out of my hands. I agree that any legal action from my friend would be pointless and I’ve told him this but, until he tells me I can go ahead, I must respect his trust. Further, if you are complaining Mayor Jim Long to Minister Hogan, please be professional, candid and polite in your approach. We are speaking for Limerick here and we don’t need to give anything other than a good impression.