My shop braved two wars… but absurd car ban might do us in
ONE of Cork’s oldest shops has survived two world wars, the Black & Tans and the burning of Cork, but it now faces its greatest threat yet – from the city council.
The owner of TW Murray on Patrick Street – which dates back to 1828 – fears the street’s recent ban on private cars for more than three hours every day could prove ‘fatal’ to his business.
At 89, shopkeeper John O’Connell – whose family took over the store the year he was born – has weathered every economic storm and escaped flooding from the River Lee but he fears the current threat might push his and other local businesses over the edge.
‘It is the most retrograde step I have seen here,’ Mr O’Connell told the Irish Mail on Sunday.
The niche fishing, hunting and outdoor goods store has been run by the O’Connell family since 1929, but the ban, which started on March 27 has been the most worrying development in recent times. ‘From 2pm onwards there is hardly a person on Patrick Street,’ he said. ‘All businesses are saying the same thing – that their trade is down 50%.’
Cork City Council CEO Ann Doherty has defended the ban, which has been introduced on a three-month trial period, saying it was ‘inevitable there would be teething problems’. She believes a ban is needed to prevent ‘what’s happening in Dublin’ and avoid congestion as Cork’s population grows. Free park and ride buses now run from a number of routes into the city centre in a move to appease traders – but Mr O’Connell, who has worked in the shop for more than 60 years, said it’s not enough.
‘Ms Doherty has said, “This is a three-month bedding-down period.” Let me ask, “Would she go to bed with me in the sense would she be willing to drop 50% of her income for three months?”’
‘We can’t carry the overheads, and three months is a terribly long period. A bedding-down period of that length is absolutely absurd. It’s a criminal period.
‘We have survived a lot of things – the First World War, the Second World War and the Black & Tans nearly put us out of business. But for this thing to be done by our own council is terrible. My message to the council is that you have to talk to your customers and take them into consideration. You don’t wait three months to find out whether something is bad or not because, by then, it might be fatal.’
Son George said: ‘I don’t know will many businesses be left if it keeps going like this. It used to be very vibrant and now there’s no one here.’
fear: George and his father John O’Connell of Cork’s TW Murray, inset