My shop braved two wars… but ab­surd car ban might do us in

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT - By Anne Sheri­dan

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

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