Irish Republican News · November 26, 2009
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Unease grows over cross-border shopping

Advertisements aimed at attracting southern shoppers and holidaymakers to Belfast over Christmas have been banned in Dublin.

Two bodies set up to boost Belfast’s reputation and attract visitors were told bluntly they could not advertise the city in four Dublin car parks.

The high-profile advertising sites included Arnott’s on Henry Street, Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, the Parnell Centre and the Royal College of Surgeons on Lower Mercer Street.

The Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau yesterday responded by announcing that it was distributing 100,000 guides to Christmas in Belfast, which include a maps of the city’s shopping district, around secret locations in the 26 Counties.

Some of the guides will be given out in Dublin city centre.

The campaign comes at a time of extreme distress for southern retailers, with the 26 Counties in a severe economic contraction and tens of thousands of people regularly heading over the border to shop.

On Tuesday, there were five-mile tailbacks outside Newry yesterday as striking civil servants from the south took the opportunity to get in some cheap Christmas shopping. The tailbacks were similar to a bank holiday.

One man explained his decision to defy the admonitions of the Dublin government to ignore savings north of the border due to a low sales tax and a weakened currency.

“They are telling us not to come here, and spend our money down South. Why? So they can give it to the banks!”

While retailers in the north are hiring extra staff, some residents of border towns have complained of chaos on the roads and a fear of becoming “Ireland’s Mexico”.

Meanwhile, retailers in the South have warned of possible closures.

Tara Buckley, chief executive of RGDATA, which represents grocers in the 26 Counties, urged people to support family-run retailers.

“We are urging people to shop locally in small family-owned shops instead of in big multiples in Northern Ireland,” she said.

“When they do so, money is fed through to shareholders in Britain and the USA. My counterpart in northern Ireland has even said that smaller businesses are not benefiting -- instead, money is being repatriated out of northern Ireland.”

US-owned ASDA and UK-owned Sainsbury’s, now hold 3% of the 26-County grocery market.

Dublin’s mayor Emer Costello said Dublin had plenty to offer shoppers. “I am doing everything I can to promote Dublin as a place to come and do your shopping as we have a fantastic range of activities on offer and plenty of value to be had,” the Labour Party politician said.

“As far as shopping in Belfast I see it as the same as Galway or Cork or Paris -- people in Europe are free to travel and spend their money where they wish. But I feel that with shopping in the North, there is an element of penny wise, pound foolish as people spend so much more when they are up there.”

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© 2009 Irish Republican News