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LATEST: Advice for UL community on COVID-19 Coronavirus

Last updated 28/03/2020 - 11:56

Read the latest FAQs on Covid-19 for the UL Community

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Memo Update: A difficult phase – March 28

Dear colleagues and students

With the announcement of further shutdowns and restrictions (read details here) by An Taoiseach Leo Varakdar yesterday evening (read speech here) we are undoubtedly facing into a more difficult phase of this battle against COVID -19. But as an institution we are prepared. We vacated our lovely campus on the day we were asked. However we remain fully operational and with all our programmes online, we continue to serve and support our students.

We are preparing on multiple fronts to assist the HSE in the battle against this virus and will offer the might of our innovative technology and research expertise along with our physical laboratory and accommodation facilities to serve the national good. 

UL will prevail because of the commitment, dedication and passion of our community.

Kind Regards
Des

Dr Des Fitzgerald MD, President, University of Limerick 

 

Memo Update: Communication to students and staff on assessments and exams  – March 24

The University of Limerick Academic Planning Group has been meeting regularly and has, amongst other items, been discussing the issue of how the University would cope with the impact of the campus closure, the uncertainty at national and local level over the possibility and timing of reopening, and our assessment procedures.

It is fair to say we are in uncharted territory and the Academic Planning Group has explored multiple options as to how we maintain academic integrity, provide assessment for our students to enable timely completion of final awards, and provide the flexibility that will be required during the COVID-19 pandemic to enable all of our students to either progress to their next academic year, or graduate.

For STUDENTS, please read the full breakdown of our plans here and see the FAQs for more detail.

For STAFF please read the full breakdown of our plans  here and see the FAQs for more detail.

UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC)

Previous updates

Dear colleagues and students,

Today marks two weeks since University of Limerick closed its campus on foot of government advice due to the COVID-19 crisis.

While UL is physically closed, we migrated online where Trojan work by staff has meant the University has remained operational during this difficult time.

Just two weeks ago we were sitting in our offices, our labs, our lecture theatres or simply enjoying Ireland’s Best Student Campus when An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made a historic address from Washington instructing the education system to close its doors.

So much has happened in that 14 day period that it feels like months - yet we have done an incredible amount.

We didn’t close, we went online - you opened up digital pathways, set up remote working, and generally moved mountains so that the 16,500 students in UL have had continued access to their academic programmes. It has been two weeks of extraordinary effort.

University of Limerick is fully operational and this week the Academic Planning Group confirmed plans for assessment to also take place remotely. We ask for your assistance in meeting these obligations and ensuring the integrity of our systems. Keep visiting the UL.ie/COVID19 webpage for daily updates and announcements as well as an extensive list of FAQs and support advice.

Unfortunately, we have had to cancel the June conferring at UL due to the current crisis. However, our final year medical students will graduate in-absentia and be ready to fight this virus as soon as possible. We salute them and the many thousands more of their colleagues doing their best to protect us.

We thank all the UL student volunteers who have made themselves available to contribute to the national good at this trying time. We are apart but we are very much connected in our efforts to serve our students, to protect our community and our University.

As Taoiseach Varadkar said in the Dail today: “Unfortunately we cannot stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back. Our national objective must be to flatten the curve. We can succeed if everyone takes sustained action. Nothing less will do.”

The advice is simple: wash your hands regularly, keep your distance and stay at home where at all possible. By doing so, you are helping those who are on the frontline facing this disease every day.

UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee

 

 

 

It is with sadness that University of Limerick has taken the decision to cancel the Conferring Ceremony due to take place on June 9, 2020. 

This is not a decision that was taken lightly, however these are exceptional times and the safety of our community must remain our priority.  

Eligible students from Medical School, Bachelor of Medicine, will now graduate In Absentia (not in person). They will receive their parchments by mail as proof of their qualification. Please check with UL Academic Registry (saa@ul.ie) to ensure your  postal details are correct.

UL Ceremonies Office

 

Dear colleagues and students,

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has this Tuesday afternoon announced further measures in the bid to fight the COVID-19 crisis.  He has confirmed that universities, schools and childcare facilities will remain closed until April 19.

As you know, this is a very fluid situation and our belief is still that we won’t be physically back on the UL campus this semester.  We are entering a new phase of the pandemic with an increasing number of restrictions to try and stop the virus from spreading. These may be further enhanced in the coming weeks. 

The Taoiseach has also announced a raft of new measures on physical distancing in an attempt to do more to flatten the curve of this virus. The best course of action you can take is to stay at home if possible. The measures come into effect at midnight tonight and a full breakdown can be seen here.

As the Taoiseach said, these are unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency and we must follow the direction being given by government.

The UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC) is acting to ensure that the normal operation of the University continues during this COVID-19 crisis and met this Tuesday - remotely - to continue to deal with this situation.

The effort being made by staff and students to assist in keeping the University operational is massive and deeply appreciated by us all.  Students are understandably concerned about assessments and we will have information on that to share with you shortly.

Our community has done a fantastic job of keeping apart, but we must not lose momentum at this vital time.  I have been overwhelmed by the efforts of our staff community, not only to continue our programmes online, but also to constantly reassure and support our students at a time when there is understandable anxiety.

The COVID Action Group, which has been brought together at UL, is harnessing the great strengths that we have as a University to make a real impact on limiting the spread of this disease.  Hundreds of people have come forward to offer their expertise for the national good and with a desire to do something for our community and that of the Mid-West.

As An Taoiseach said in his address this afternoon, “working together our country will come through this emergency. We will be tested, but we will succeed”.

Regards,

Des

Dr Des Fitzgerald, President 

Dear staff and students,

The UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC) met on Friday and will do so again tomorrow.

Regular updates about what is discussed at the committee will be provided to you – more information on that is below. This is a long one but hopefully the emails will be shorter as they become more regular.

First, it is important that we, as a committee, relay to you: this is a vital week that will determine how we meet the challenge of this virus. There is no time left - our advice now is to act as if you have the virus and you don’t want to spread it.

National Advice

Yesterday, on Mother’s Day, health minister Simon Harris delivered a “blunt and honest” communication that highlights what we must do now to stop the march of COVID-19.

He said: “We, all of us, not anyone else, will decide through our actions what happens next.”

The message is clear: to save lives, to support the healthcare professionals on the front line fighting this virus, to keep our families safe – we must keep our distance. Stay at home. Everyone needs to abide by physical distancing and that means there should be two metres between you and other people.

There are 906 confirmed cases in Ireland and four people have died. There are 40,000 people waiting to be tested. The HSE will be under stress as it has never been before in this vital week ahead.

The median age of people affected by this is 44 and the 30-55 age category is most affected – but there is clear evidence that young people are at risk too. One of those to die on Sunday in the UK was an 18-year-old.

The National Public Health Emergency team will meet on Tuesday and Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan’s team will likely make further recommendations to government on the movement of people. We expect some clarity on an extension to the closure of higher education institutions beyond the initial March 29 date this week also.

UL Operations

The COTEC committee is acting to ensure that normal operation of the University continues. Huge efforts by academic and support staff have meant all programmes are continuing online. There has been very significant online activity last week by all of our students and staff, who are rising to the challenge of this situation. 

The Academic Planning Group is progressing its work and assessment arrangements will be confirmed to students by the end of March. We will email more detail on assessments this week.

In the meantime, a major effort of UL staff and students, under the supervision of UL Vice President Research Professor Norelee Kennedy and the UL COVID Action Group, has already swung into place.

Actions include participation in contact tracing, for which there are already 200 UL student volunteers, mathematical modelling, economic advice, laboratory assistance and more. A team from health sciences is working with colleagues from UHL to plan a field hospital in the UL Arena, where patients who do not have COVID-19 will be treated in a step-down facility and can receive rehab and physio out of the regular hospital system.

We are continuing to support students who remain in our on-campus accommodation – almost 800 in total, the majority of which are international students. Our staff are working seven days a week to provide security and support to these students and the Student Health Centre also remains operational for medical and counselling support. These are vital services and we will continue to provide them.

UL Source for Information 

The www.ul.ie/covid19 webpage is the most up to date source of information for all staff and students in relation to measures being put in place and institutional advice during a rapidly changing situation.

You can rely on this page and the FAQs, which are updated on a daily basis, as a source of the most up to date UL information across a wide range of areas.

Please get your information from trusted sources – ideally via the HSE’s dedicated COVID-19 page here: www2.hse.ie/coronavirus.

Dr Liam Glynn, a professor of general practice in our Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS), is providing up to date information on Twitter via #COVIDWATCH – a project endorsed by UL and the Irish College of General Practitioners.

We continue to support Limerick and the Mid-West region; we will do it now and we will do it when this crisis is over and be part of the recovery of this great city and county.

We are providing healthcare professionals that are at the front line of this fight and 140 final year medical students from UL GEMS will finish their exams as scheduled in April and be ready to start early in May in the battle against this virus.

We owe it to them and the many thousands like them around the country putting themselves at risk to remain apart and stand together.

UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC)

Dear staff and students,

The UL Critical Operations Team & Executive Committee (COTEC) has been meeting since January to coordinate the university response to the COVID-19 global crisis. This team is continuing to meet twice a week and will do so until this crisis is over. 

A full list of the team members can be found at the bottom of this email. 

We want to keep our entire community of staff and students fully informed of the work that this committee is doing on your behalf. This email address will represent a communication from the committee and regular updates will be sent to you with details of the issues facing the committee and of decisions taken. Our wish is that you can come to rely on regular information being sent directly to you from the committee.

The www.ul.ie/covid19 webpage is the most up to date source of information for all staff and students in relation to measures being put in place and institutional advice during a rapidly changing situation. You can rely on this page and the FAQs, which are updated on a daily basis, as a source of the most up to date UL information across a wide range of areas.

Please continue to lead the way, as you have done already, with a strong message on social distancing and personal hygiene to our wider community.

Stay well.

Sean Arkins  Dean, SE  
Paul Burke  CAO UL Hospitals 
Christine Cross  Dean, KBS 
Sheena Doyle  Communications Manager 
Harvey Duthie  VP Development, CEO ULF 
Desmond Fitzgerald  President, UL 
Andrew Flaherty  Director, HR 
Michael Foley  COO, PCC 
Marta Guzniczak  Director, OOP 
Claire Kearns  Practice ​Nurse Manager, 

Student Health Centre 

Helen Kelly Holmes  Dean, AHSS 
Norelee Kennedy  VP Research 
Ann Ledwith  Dean, GPS 
Kerstin Mey  VPAASE 
Eamonn Moran  Director, Student Affairs 
Rachel Msetfi  Dean, EHS 
Gerry O'Brien  DPCOOReg 
Liam O’Reilly  Director, ITD 
Josephine Page  Director, IED 
Robert Reidy  Director, Buildings and Estates 
Sean Ryan  Acting Director, Strategic Projects and Transformation 
Ronan Ryder  Medical Director, Student Health Centre 
Philip Thornton  Health & Safety Officer 
Patrice Twomey  Director, CECD 

Dear colleagues and students,

At a briefing on March 12, attendees were told by the Department of Health that the schools/universities closures could extend beyond March 29 depending on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team.

Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has projected that there will be exponential growth in positive cases over the next two weeks and An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has just confirmed that the closure of education institutions could last much longer: months not weeks.

This means we need to be prepared for the very real possibility that there will not be a resumption of normality for the remainder of the final term and that the campus will remain closed until some time during the summer.

The University is preparing for this eventuality and looking at continuing online learning and offering alternative means of assessment than the traditional paper based onsite exam hall experience. This also includes assessments and final projects for Masters students.

Students should assess what this means for them particularly in the light of the rapidly evolving travel advice and country specific action which will see travel embargos to and from some regions.

For international students: please inform IED: international@ul.ie of your decision and indicate whether you are staying in accommodation on campus or off campus. This is important as it will enable us to direct support over the coming weeks.

Professor Kerstin Mey, Vice President Academic Affairs and Student Engagement, University of Limerick 

Dear colleagues and students,

These are extraordinary times. We are facing the single biggest health crisis in living memory.

I am deeply concerned that people are not fully realising the severity of the situation and so are not changing their behaviour quickly enough.

The government and health authorities are doing everything they can and those at the front line facing Covid-19 Coronavirus are performing incredible work.

Those that are dealing directly with this crisis don’t have the luxury to self-isolate and reduce their personal contact - we owe it to them to do everything we can to buy them enough time to deal with this crisis. 

We have a small window of time right now where we can really have an influence to limit how bad this gets.  We still have a chance to flatten out the curve of this virus, to attenuate the sudden surge in infected people and help to interrupt its march but we need to act NOW. TODAY. THIS EVENING.  

In 80% of cases this virus will be a mild illness but it is the 20% of cases which will be severe or critical that require us to act now. If we can slow transmission now, we can give much needed time to the health service to care for the critically ill who will require ventilators. You can lead this change in your families and your communities.

None of us have ever faced anything like this in our lifetimes but we do have it within our power to influence how dire this does or does not become. Social gatherings are still taking place, and at a level where there is disregard for everyone’s public safety.

We must take action - by remaining apart, we stand together.  We are currently working with the HSE to develop more sophisticated systems of contact tracing with the inclusion of testing - this is further to the change in testing criteria in recent days. Our staff have much needed clinical skills as well as expertise in technology that could make a difference in limiting the transmission of the virus, such as the analysis of geolocation data to map individuals who may have come into contact with infected persons.

Perhaps people could consider a daily diary of their contact with other people – this is a good way to make people more conscious of their personal contact with others. Stay active, go for walks - connect with people remotely via phone, or social media.  

It may well be a long road and I expect UL to remain closed beyond the Government indication of March 29.  However, our community of staff and students have moved mountains in the past week towards full online programme delivery and establishing remote working. I have no doubt we will weather this storm and return as a campus community even stronger than before.

Kind regards

Des

Dr Des Fitzgerald, President, University of Limerick

 

Dear Student,

As you know, there has been much talk about how to manage COVID-19 Coronavirus and its impact on your life and your studies.

People are worried, even frightened and that is normal. However, this is a time for action rather than panic. This virus thrives on contact so we must isolate ourselves, limit our contact and observe the advice on hygiene.

Students are urged to practice social distancing and to minimise physical contact with each other to help avoid the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.

We must protect the elderly and the vulnerable in society as best we can. We have a duty to those around us to limit our personal contact and to practice good social distancing.

The best advice is to minimise social contact, avoid meeting up and keep physical space between each other. A low number of social interactions will translate to a lower transmission rate. The higher it gets, the higher the risk of transmission.

If you do not interact with an infected person, you are unlikely to contract the virus. However, you will not know who is infected, so avoid all contact if possible.

We want both students and their families to make it through this crisis safely. That is why we are encouraging these social distancing practices. Comfort and care for older people but from a distance – stay in touch with them in whatever way you can.

As a group, we have the potential to make a very significant impact on this illness by leading the way in following the advice available to us. We can help the most vulnerable in society by understanding that our personal actions will influence the overall wellbeing of our own communities.

Our own family members will need us to consider their welfare - by applying advice that has come from research and practice. We can live out our commitment to education by actively engaging in what it teaches us. This will help those most vulnerable in our own communities, those in our families, those in our peer groups and those that we call friends.

Do what you can, when you can and you will see the difference.

Dear UL Community,

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has this Thursday morning announced a closure of all schools and higher education institutions as Ireland has entered into a new phase in dealing with the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

University of Limerick campus will close from end of business today to all staff and students. In the first instance, the University will close until March 29.

There will be access on campus for a core skeleton staff to maintain essential services and a team from Buildings and Estates will continue to service the campus and provide security and support to students in University residences who cannot return to their homes. 

We will require staff, where at all possible, to remain working from home and for students to engage with their course content online. More information will be communicated to students in relation to alternative assessment. All course related travel will be cancelled until March 29.

We have also established teams in various support units to maintain services to staff and students off campus, including HR, Finance and ITD. Details and further advice on issues such as travel, support for parents on school closure and staff sick leave are available on ul.ie/covid19 webpage.

You should continue to visit the source of official information on the UL website, which has a long list of frequently asked questions (FAQs), which are being updated on a daily basis.

We are developing an inventory of essential supplies and services for faculties and research facilities and will do all we can to secure them. Any further developments will be announced promptly by email and through the dedicated website and I would ask that you pay attention to them.

A serious focus must now be on the prevention of community spread by limiting person-to-person contact, for example by banning public events and closing institutions. I am also conscious that the airlines are gradually limiting services to affected areas and that the US has banned flights from 22 EU countries bordering the Schengen region but not the UK and Ireland. There is therefore a limited window in which students can return to their home countries if they wish.

The University Critical Incident Committee will continue to meet and to advise you and to monitor developments, while our staff move to delivering our educational programmes online. A separate communication will go out to our on-campus residents to outline the plans in place to support students in UL residences who are unable to return home.

The staff have pulled together remarkably in preparing for this pandemic and I want to thank them for the extraordinary work they have done and will continue to do in delivering our programmes to the students and in maintaining campus and community life.

I am conscious that they have done this under extraordinary pressure as they too, and their families, face into this storm. I know many of you are worried, even frightened. Let me assure you that the majority will contract no, or only a mild or moderate, illness. Older people will suffer most, as will the men and women who are at the coalface of our medical services, many of whom are on our faculty. What we must all do is isolate ourselves, limit our contacts and observe the advice on hygiene.

If you don’t interact with an infected person, you won’t get the disease and as you won’t know who is infected, avoid all contact if possible. In particular, comfort and care for older people but from a distance – stay in touch with them in whatever way you can.

I am reminded of a letter I received from the president of our partner institution Shandong University in China as they faced Covid-19. He said that the students and staff had pulled together to fight this virus and he felt they were winning. UL is a strong community and working as a community we will get through this and return to thrive.

We are responding to a disaster that goes well beyond the campus and will disrupt public and private services for weeks, maybe months to come. But universities are resilient – history shows that they survive catastrophe to return and help rebuild themselves and their communities.

We will be back and we will return to normal, supporting each other and the community of Limerick and the Mid-West as we have always done.

Dr. Des Fitzgerald, President, University of Limerick

Dear Colleagues,

With the dynamically developing Coronavirus COVID-19 situation we are preparing to facilitate student learning by alternative means. We have already said that students’ attendance in class is currently not mandated and we need to support students who are not able to attend scheduled classes due to underlying health issues or related concerns. 

Furthermore, we need to be ready to switch to an online mode of learning and assessment in the event that the campus has to be partially or fully closed following consultation with the HSE, the HEA and other relevant authorities. Please note as of yesterday, the direction from DES/HEA is that schools and universities remain open.

As part of our academic planning for all eventualities, learning material and instructions for the remainder of this semester will have to be made available online through our Learning Management System SULIS (and Moodle for some of you). ITD has developed detailed guidance to support this process, which has already been disseminated in the Faculties and is published on the Remote Work and Study webpage Topdesk https://ul.topdesk.net

We also need to give consideration to the assessment of student learning and in particular the approaching end of semester exams. We will be adhering to the exam schedule as far as this is possible. However, the traditional closed book written exam will need to be replaced with an alternative end of term assessment via the Learning Management System, Sulis (or Moodle, for some of you). There are many alternatives to the final exam, which can be provided to students, using tools available in the LMS.

A series of Webinars and Face 2 Face sessions are scheduled over the next number of days to support academic staff in engaging with the various systems and tools available to facilitate online learning and teaching. These mainly online sessions will be delivered by the Faculty Learning Technologists, Education Technologists, lecturers and colleagues in CTL and ITD.  For a list of sessions and to make a booking, click here.

Sessions will be recorded and made available afterwards on the Remote Work and Study webpage on Topdesk https://ul.topdesk.net.

In choosing an alternative to the final exam, it is important to consider what will best allow students to demonstrate that they have achieved the intended learning outcomes. Attention must be given to inclusivity and accessibility, transparency and fairness. Some useful tips from JISC on ensuring continuity of learning in enforced absence is available here and some useful resources on assessment from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning here

I would like to use this opportunity to thank colleagues in ITD and all our Learning & Education Technologists for the development of the online tutorials, workshops and guidelines and to thank all teaching colleagues for preparing for an online learning and assessment mode.

Professor Kerstin Mey, VPAAS, University of Limerick

Dear Students

With the dynamically developing Coronavirus COVID-19 situation we are preparing to facilitate your learning by alternative means. We have already said that your attendance in class is currently not mandated and we are committed to support those of you who are not able to attend scheduled classes due to underlying health issues or related concerns. 

Furthermore, we are getting ready to switch to an online mode of learning and assessment in the event that the campus has to be partially or fully closed following consultation with the HSE, the HEA and other relevant authorities. Please note as of yesterday, the direction from DES/HEA is that schools and universities remain fully open.

Consideration is also being given to the assessment of your learning and in particular the approaching end of semester exams. We will be adhering to the exam schedule as far as is possible. However, the traditional closed book written exam may need to be replaced with an alternative end of term assessment via the Learning Management System, Sulis (or Moodle, for some of you). We will advise you on your specific end of semester exams closer to the time.

Professor Kerstin Mey, VPAASE, University of Limerick

  • There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the UL community or on the UL campus and the University is fully open and operating as normal.
  • Any need for partial or full closure of the UL campus will be officially communicated to our community across multiple platforms and contingency plans will be made clear at that stage.  
  • The dedicated webpage www.ul.ie/covid19 should be your reference for official institutional updates in relation to UL specific news and advice on COVID-19. 
  • A list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) has been added to this page to keep our community as informed as possible as to the plans in place.
  • There will be a daily status update on UL’s institutional social media sites and on the www.ul.ie/covid19 webpage to ensure our community can access accurate up to date information. 
  • The University is fully operational at present and we continue to rely on every individual to take personal responsibility for their own health and that of our entire campus community. We strongly endorse preventative measures, which have been extensively published by the HSE: www.hse.ie
  • Any individual who feels ill should avoid contact with others and should not come to university. This is in line with our normal practices when people develop a cold or flu.
  • In all advice to date there is an emphasis on personal responsibility to arrest the spread of the virus. The advice, which is HSE & Department of Foreign Affairs advice, has been well publicised over the last few weeks and should be closely heeded. (https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html)

The Critical Incident/Crisis Operations Team at University of Limerick continues to meet regularly to monitor the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus and prepare our institution and our community.

There will be a daily status update on UL’s institutional social media sites and on the UL homepage to ensure our community can access accurate up to date information. This is necessary as a result of a number of false reports which have circulated over the weekend.

The University is fully operational at present and we continue to rely on every individual to take personal responsibility for their own health and that of our entire campus community. We strongly endorse preventative measures, which have been published and extensively circulated by the HSE and are available here.

While we have no reports of a positive test of COVID -19 among any of our community, this may well change in the coming weeks. Any need for partial or full closure of the UL campus will be communicated to our community across multiple platforms and contingency plans will be made clear at that stage. 

We understand that many members of our community are anxious about the spread of the virus, and as such, we are not mandating students to attend lectures. However, our advice is that the University is open and fully operational with no changes to class schedules at present.

At this point, there are only a limited number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection nationally, so the risk of acquiring the infection is small. It is worth keeping in mind that in young people the virus is most likely to be mild akin to the flu without any long-term consequences.

Any individual who feels ill should avoid contact with others and not come to university. This is in line with normal practices when people develop a cold or flu.

The objective of UL is to safeguard its staff, students and the general public. Therefore, we will take the appropriate steps to prevent the spreading of the virus.

It is impossible to plan for every eventuality in this fluid situation. Safety is our priority but we intend to address the practical implications of a closure or partial closure of the Campus. The situation is being monitored daily by Executive Management and we will communicate as soon as possible the relevant aspects of our response.

In all advice to date, there is an emphasis on personal responsibility to arrest the spread of the virus. The advice, issued by the HSE & Department of Foreign Affairs, has been well publicised over the last few weeks and should continue to be be closely heeded.

For more, visit the HSE website here.

Professor Kerstin Mey, VPAASE, University of Limerick