Chapter 3 - Economic and Community SWOT Analysis

Dúnta28 Fea, 2023, 3:54pm - 30 Aib, 2023, 5:00pm

A SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis is presented below. This informs the preparation of the draft Socio-Economic Statement for Limerick and the High Level Goals and objectives of the LECP.

Figure: Economic and Community SWOT Analysis





Social / education

Good education infrastructure at primary, secondary & tertiary level

Low rates of early school leaving and high rates of progression to third level education

Presence of third level institutions (UL/TUS/MIC), ensures a supply of graduates & research capacity (SFI centres)

Third level education institutions located in Limerick facilitates access to 3rd level education

Highly educated and skilled workforce

Economic / Jobs & sectors

Significant growth in jobs

New job announcements and investment in recent years

Low overall unemployment

Established high-tech sectors in ICT, Medi-Tech, Pharma, Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering, Food & Drink

Strong agricultural sector / system of farming & agri-industries including artisan food

New and emerging sectors  (film) & cultural industries

Strategic economic projects / in place

Limerick Twenty Thirty Company strategic projects completed including Gardens International & sites for redevelopment in Limerick City Centre

Established economic centres / industrial parks in Plassey & Raheen

“Gateway city” of strategic importance in the national & regional context

Connectivity & Transport

Global and national trade and tourism connectivity via Shannon Airport, Shannon Foynes Tier 1 port, Shannon Estuary and Limerick Docklands

Motorway accessibility to other urban centres especially Dublin & planned N/M20 to Cork to enhance connectivity

Key infrastructure developments including the N21/N69 Foynes to Limerick Road Improvement Scheme including Adare Bypass, LNDR Limerick North Distributor Route connect N18 to M7 and Newcastle West Bypass, Abbeyfeale Bypass & re-instatement of Limerick-Foynes rail for freight

New broadband BCPs and WiFI initiatives throughout the County

Community / Quality of Life

Generally short commuting times to work/school/college

High levels of community safety linked to community policing and CCTV

Historic, heritage, recreational and cultural tourism assets in the city & county & tourism networks

Natural assets including the River Shannon & Ballyhoura mountains

Strong sporting culture (Munster Rugby, GAA and soccer), sports science facilities and services and education and sporting facilities

Amenities for recreation and play have expanded in Limerick

Greater cultural diversity in the population

Large young population

High percentage of people in good or very good health

Well-developed community organisations, strong community spirit and attachment to local areas

Clubs, activities and facilities for young people with a profile of disadvantage in the city & county towns



Tourism assets including Munster Vales and Ballyhoura Country, Lough Gur, Curraghchase Park, Limerick Greenway and Shannon Estuary Way

Distinctive City Centre environment including Georgian character

Energy resources

Availability of renewable energy resources and technologies to contribute to Ireland’s commitments to climate change (targets), creation of low carbon communities and centres of learning and commerce

Institutions & partnership

A number of important “anchor” institutions located in Limerick City including third level colleges (UL, TUS) & HSE University Hospitals

Collective approach and partnerships across key stakeholders in public, community / voluntary and private sector


Social / education

Significant number of adults with low education across city and county

Early school leaving has reduced to approximate the national average, but a cohort of young people with certain characteristics still leave school early

Gap in progression rates to third level education between schools serving disadvantaged areas (DEIS schools) and non-DEIS schools

Gap in retention of students graduating from third level colleges in Limerick remaining in Limerick / the region when they progress to employment

Physical decline / vacancy

Decline and loss of vibrancy in streets in Limerick City Centre and county towns

Commercial, retail & residential vacancy rates high in the city centre, county towns & villages

Movement of retail away from  City Centre

Increasing online retail platform affecting “bricks and mortar” stores, retail trade & footfall into the city and towns

Social & economic deprivation

Large numbers (20,000) and proportion of Limerick City population living in disadvantaged areas & greater extremes of social inequality in the city

High unemployment & unemployment blackspots in disadvantaged city areas and parts of the county

Pockets of deprivation in the county, in social housing areas of towns and villages & “hidden” deprivation in rural areas

Social and economic deprivation deeply embedded in areas of the city (e.g. long-term unemployment, low education, poor health, youth offending, poorer outcomes for children)

Social groups at highest risk of exclusion

Presence of social groups that are at highest risk of social exclusion and more difficult to reach and engage (migrants in / leaving Direct Provision, migrants lacking English language skills, Travellers, people with disabilities, people with mental health difficulties, older people living in isolation and families under pressure)

Digital exclusion

Evidence of digital exclusion affecting certain social groups – people on lowest incomes, people with low education, older people, people living in rural areas lacking broadband infrastructure and connectivity

Challenging social problems

Concerns related to high levels of substance misuse in the population

Increase in offences related to possession of drugs for personal use and for sale of supply & in other crimes associated with drug use (theft)

Housing & responding to housing need

Limited housing availability for purchase or rent especially in and close to the urban area

High and increasing costs of house purchase and rents

Housing supply deficits in Newcastle West

Large numbers in social housing need

Strong dependence on private housing rental market to address social housing need (HAP/RAS)

Additional pressures linked to accommodation needs of refugees / people arriving under International Protection

Significant numbers and increase in number of adults and children homeless and in emergency accommodation

Settlement structure & population dispersal

Large number of settlements, predominance of low settlement size and highly dispersed population in rural Limerick makes it more costly to deliver infrastructure & services, provide recreation based on population catchments & difficult to deliver climate action measures

Transport & the “green” challenge

Strong reliance on the car for everyday commuting (work, school, college) & car-centred society

Insufficient investment in public transport, low frequency of services across rural Limerick, lack of routes / services, difficulties in cross-commuting to locations of work across the city neighbourhoods

High level of energy inefficient buildings and dependence on fossil fuels in the domestic and non-domestic stock of buildings

Sustainability and climate change

Lack of societal awareness on sustainable development challenges and what actions can yield best results in mitigation and adaptation

Lack of development of the circular economy

Recreation & Sports

Deficits in certain recreation facilities in different parts of city and county including swimming, access to smaller parks and recreation space, playgrounds

Improvements needed to enhance much of the existing sports and recreation infrastructure

Strategic plans, structures & sites

New Limerick Development Plan 2022-2028 focused on achieving an inclusive, resilience and sustainable “green” city and county

Limerick Twenty Thirty sites in public ownership and re-development progressing, including Opera Square (in construction), Mungret and Cleeves Riverside Quarter (masterplan completed, planning)

National and Regional Planning Frameworks in place & significant national funding available for regeneration and development in urban and rural Limerick

National level policies & frameworks to support social inclusion, anti-discrimination, equality and social justice

Building on strategic economic resources

Established centres of employment in strategic  locations continuing to expand including Plassey National Technology Park, Raheen Industrial Estate, Troy Film Studios & Academy in Limerick City Centre

Strong presence and range of multinational and national employers creating a diversified & resilient base & significant job expansion potential

Strong base in ICT, Life Sciences (Med Tech/ Pharma) and advanced manufacturing supporting stronger clustering and expansion

Strong third level presence in Limerick with R&D Innovation profile, links to industry and enterprise & with potential for niche industries development

Social diversity, social and economic inclusion

Increasing social diversity expands & enriches our culture, brings new knowledge, talents, skills and potential to expand the labour force & enterprise

Pool of people currently in economic & social deprivation provide a potential source of skills, workforce and enterprise

Increasing life expectancy, older population in good health with potential to contribute to family, community life, volunteering and the economy

Locational, Competitiveness & Quality of Life Advantages

Limerick is a cost competitive environment compared with other larger urban areas in Ireland especially Dublin

Limerick amongst the best located counties in national access transport & connectivity

Limerick County well located in terms of distance from key public (schools, hospitals, public libraries) & private / consumer services

Learning, training, research and development and innovation reputation established and expected to expand

Further potential for start-ups & development of micro- & small enterprises in urban and rural Limerick (tourism, services, cultural and creative industries, artisan food)

Agriculture & related industries

Agricultural sector with resources, technologies and capacity to adapt to green production and spin-offs (green energy), expand local food production and improve food security

Established local markets (Milk Market) and local farmers market

Transport / active travel

Investment in active travel and public transport started and expected to increase considerably including new / extended of Greenways into the urban and sub-urban areas and inter-county

Limerick Greenway (40km) fully developed and operational, expanding into north Kerry & showing significant increase in use by locals and visitors

Castletroy Greenway operational and other greenways planned

Tourism resources & unrealised tourism potential

Limerick Greenway opens up opportunities for expansion of rural tourism into west Limerick & on-going public and private investment in tourism infrastructure

Wild Atlantic Way Gateway designation for Limerick  supports expansion of tourism in the city and sub-region

Tourism assets being developed further & marketed in the City including Thomond Park, King John’s Castle, The Hunt Museum, The Limerick City Gallery of Art, the International Rugby Experience

Under-used historic & physical assets in City Centre & important heritage, cultural sites, natural landscapes & recreational potential in rural Limerick

Designated Activity Company for spearheading tourism developed established by Limerick City and County Council and operational

Culture & creative industries

Culture and the night time economy further developing

Artistic & creative profile in film, fashion, music, literature of Limerick with strong potential for expansion

Potential for building on / growth in festivals and events

Digital connectivity & services & potential impact

Development of Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) and Connected Hubs in rural areas and increased opportunities for remote working improves potential for regeneration of rural towns and villages

Expansion of broadband infrastructure and connectivity across rural areas and in other communities increases opportunities for learning using online platforms


Area-based regeneration & placemaking

Government focus on compact growth & public funding for reduction in vacancy and dereliction creates conditions for re-use of existing buildings for residential, economic and community uses & regeneration

Landbanks and buildings in public ownership including derelict / vacant buildings in the ownership of the Council provides opportunities to re-design area / re-purpose city / town and village centres for 21st Century living

“Green” transition opportunities

Transition to a low carbon society and economy creates opportunities for increased investment (FDI/indigenous) in energy generation and energy security

Retrofitting and improving energy efficiency of buildings offers opportunities for up-skilling and re-skilling, new job opportunities for unemployed people and for social enterprise

Circular economy, local grow your own food and markets offer opportunities for urban and rural community enterprise



Sport & Recreation

Opportunities to activate passive green space for recreation and play and create nature areas

Opportunities to develop bio-diversity corridors along walkways and cycleways

Community & voluntary sector – building out from current strengths

Community and voluntary groups with capacity for further development, enriching civic life

Potential to build on successes of voluntary and community groups in development and running of community centres, social enterprise and services

External influences & economic

Changes to international corporate tax reduce Ireland’s competitiveness for attracting FDI

Strong competition from other areas (Dublin, other cities and other local authority areas in the state) for investment and R&D and Innovation more established in other centres

Risk that economic recovery does not continue / recession ensues and difficulties of adaptation in the local economic due to faster cycles of economic growth and decline in the global economy

Supply chains bottlenecks, continued cost inflation in commodities, energy, food supplies impact on cost structures in all industries and services and increased cost of living

Continuation of the war in Ukraine, onset of other international crises resulting in uncertainties and new challenges (migration, housing, health care)

COVID-19 pandemic is followed by new variants dampening growth during 2020s

Workforce not expanding to meet labour market demand & skills not meeting employer / industry needs impacting negatively on FDI and business expansion

Vacancy & dereliction & regeneration

High level of commercial and retail vacancy in Limerick City and main County towns remains to “blight” progress in city / town centre regeneration

Key employers roll-back on remote working arrangements & social, economic and climate change benefits of this work pattern not being achieved

Remote working / Digital Hubs in rural towns and villages do not develop a sufficient user base to make them self-sustaining and impact on village / town renewal is not achieved

Complexity of dealing with issues of vacancy and dereliction including ownership / legal issues and re-development of protected structures are difficult to resolve, resulting in delays in delivery and significant cost increases

Housing supply / demand & key social infrastructure delivery

Insufficient housing supply to meet existing need and challenges in meeting future demand act as a barrier to growth

Negative social and community effects of lack of housing supply (migration of young people from Limerick, lower growth in population, social and financial pressures on young people and families, imbalance social structure in communities, additional issues in addressing accommodation needs of people arriving under International Protection)

Lack of capacity in water infrastructure and waste water treatment is a current constraint to population growth in certain towns and villages in Limerick & needs significant public investment

Slow roll-out / delays in key strategic infrastructure projects – National Broadband Plan, road and rail, public transport, active travel, housing

Childcare, health & social services

Access to & cost of childcare may act as a barrier to labour market participation

Increasing demand for social care, elderly care and other types of social and health services not met with increased resources

Larger numbers in the population living with chronic illness and requiring services in communities and health settings put increased pressure on services

Lifestyle-related factors associated with poorer health not reducing (obesity, substance misuse, high risk behaviours) putting pressure on health services

Difficulties in access to health, special education, social care and other social services (family support, addiction services) increases pressures on families and results in social exclusion

Social and health inequalities widen

Disadvantaged areas and social groups do not close the gap with the mainstream, social inequalities remain as people and groups are left behind, affecting social cohesion

Inequalities in access to health care / new developments in health and management of chronic illness increase health inequalities

Some local areas characterised by health inequalities, low education, long history of unemployment and welfare dependence resulting in deep structural problems which make successful revitalisation complex and difficult to achieve

Continued increases in certain types of crime (e.g., drug crime, and drug-related crime) that impact negatively on community and personal safety and fear

Social and cultural barriers to building integration  across diverse communities in the city and the county not being progressed and negatively affecting social cohesion

Digitalisation of economy, social life & services

Cyber security, cyber safety and increase in cyber-crime present social challenges (protecting children) and economic costs (people, households, businesses, public services)

Digital divide is not closed resulting in widening gaps in opportunities to access information, learning / education, public services and employment

Green transition and targets behind

Continued occurrence and frequency of extreme weather events with negative effects on the economy, areas affected / households / business / infrastructure and increase public costs

Continued loss of bio-diversity and depletion of scare resources (water)

Climate change outturn deteriorates in 2020s, requiring faster and deeper adaptation and mitigation measures

Climate change action fails to achieve just transition approach with certain sectors and people taking a disproportionate negative impact, affecting buy-in and social cohesion

Mis-match in location of jobs and where people live together and lack of development of “green” transport solutions affecting achievement of targets

Societal and community awareness of climate change, adaptation and mitigation measures remains insufficient and the necessary changes in behaviours are not achieved

Costs of transition – e.g., retrofitting, businesses and jobs with high levels of emissions – considered prohibitive or not realistic (e.g., sustainable travel)

High risk of energy poverty for households on low incomes including older people, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, households with children

Placemaking & community & voluntary organisation

Amenities, recreation infrastructure and civic space development and maintenance not keeping pace with community needs and expectations

Amenities and recreation infrastructure accessible within walking & active travel distances very difficult to achieve with population dispersal

Ageing of volunteers in community and voluntary organisations, weaknesses in building new sources of community leadership impact on sustainability of community and voluntary operations in urban and rural Limerick

Lack of diversity in volunteering roles – youth, migrants – and in boards and decision-making structures engaging communities

Opportunities Social/Education
Findings from consultations with young people, stakeholders, volunteers and staff as part of LYS Strategic Plan 2023-2025 highlighted the debilitating impacts of an over-emphasis on academic success...
Community & Voluntary Sector
In line with LYS Strategic Plan 2023-2027 and the National Volunteering Strategy 2022 (,...