City market to open on Sunday: Council
‘Give them a chance’ was the overwhelming message from Belfast City councillors on Wednesday night in passing the proposal for traders in St George’s market to trial Sunday opening as a way to entice more tourists to stay within the city’s boundaries for the entire weekend and help towards generating money in the local economy.
Despite DUP councillor Robin Newton forwarding a motion to reject the proposal for economic reasons saying: “Who goes to buy brussel sprouts on a Sunday?” — on Tuesday evening, the council voted 28 to 13 against Cllr Newton’s request to reject the sunday trading proposal and issue a report to investigate a more holistic strategy for the market.
Annemarie Mullan, a market trader and co-ordinator of St George’s memories project, attended the council meeting with other market traders and customer representatives to hear the decision.
She said: “Oh it was such drama, my heart was in my stomach when they were discussing it. It could have went either way, the DUP had kept deferring it every time it was brought to council meetings — it could have happened again.
“This is great news for the city and for tourism. Speaking on behalf of the traders, I am really pleased but still mindful that a lot of hard work lies head to make this a success for everybody. But ultimately I just know a lot of people in this city will greatly benefit from this result today.
“We have asked members of the DUP to come and personally meet with us in the past to discuss the issue of Sundays. We would very much like to invite them and of course, every other political party to come and meet with us in the near future to discuss the progress of the trial.”
Sinn Fein councillor Conor Maskey said: “Everyone was invited to the Development Committee meeting to discuss this issue in more depth, but some of the members here tonight who oppose it did not turn up.
“The market traders are here in the balcony, they rely on this decision tonight. If only they were allowed down to the floor to speak and represent themselves and the markets community.”
Though a few UUP councillors were not present to vote, those that stayed supported the market traders. Cllr Jim Rodgers said: “While I personally do not choose to frequent markets on a Sunday, I will not stand in the way for other people wishing to do so. I say, give them a chance for this trial period, I see no real reason not to.”
DUP councillor Christopher Stalford said: “I have been to St George’s in the past on a Sunday, I was invited to attend Chinese New Year celebrations there.While I don’t personally reject the market opening on a Sunday I do view the Development Committee’s report as shabby.
“It is full of financial approximations and it notes that informal consultation took place. What does informal actually mean?
“That is why I can’t support this decision today.”