Fury after staff at Newry On Ice Winter Wonderland are left without wages
Up to 40 young people employed to work at the Newry On Ice Winter Wonderland have been left without wages totalling more than £13,000.
The festive extravaganza, run by Ice Skate City Ltd, took place at the council-owned Albert Basin from December 7 to January 5.
However, it suffered a series of setbacks and now frustrated staff have been left out of pocket.
The majority of the workers are under the age of 20 and it's understood just one person has been fully paid for the work they have done over the last month.
Helena McSherry, from Newry Trades Council, said: "Newry and Mourne Council granted these people permission to have Newry On Ice on their land. We want to ensure these young people get paid.
"For many of the young people it was their first job. It's not a nice way to start working life."
The chairman of Ice Skate City Ltd, Philip Gaffney, could not be contacted last night, but one of those behind the project, Gerry Corr-Black, claimed he had lost £17,500 he borrowed to help it. He claimed the venture was overstaffed and not profitable.
"I was brought in as an investor and worker. I've lost in the region of £17,500," he claimed.
"We're making arrangements with Newry and Mourne Council to make sure the children get paid in the next few days. "
Employees protested outside council headquarters yesterday evening. Among them was 28-year-old ice marshal and first aider, Therese Kelland, who is owed £400.
She said: "We were told we would get one wage before Christmas and one the week after. I only got one week's wages.
"At the weekend the girl dealing with us wasn't showing up and then she texted people saying she didn't work for Newry On Ice anymore. I overspent at Christmas when I thought I was getting this money."
Jayne Patterson, an 18-year-old student, employed as a box office assistant, said: "I'm also owed £400. Everyone is feeling the same way. We just want our money. I can't believe this has happened."
The attraction's opening was delayed by "adverse weather conditions" and it was reported a big wheel and drive-in cinema failed to materialise. A competition prize of a new car was also withdrawn.
Stephen Campbell of JC Campbell car dealers said: "We agreed to sell them a car and had stickered it up, with our name and Newry On Ice, for a prize draw. The organisers never came good with the money."
The council said it was disappointed organisers had not honoured commitments and pledged to set up a meeting with them.
"There is a clear moral responsibility on the company to fulfil its obligations... my colleagues and I have made representations through the Newry and Mourne District Council to hold the company to account and help ensure the young people get what is rightfully due to them – the wages owed to them."
Newry and Mourne MLA Dominic Bradley