Waiting is finally over for Ikea fans
Slow start after traffic warnings
The wait is finally over. Swedish furniture giant Ikea opened its first store in Ireland today as customers queued overnight to be the first through the doors of the 29,000sq m building located at the Holywood Exchange outside Belfast - the largest Ikea store in the UK and Ireland.
Among the first through the doors was First and Deputy First Minister Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.
For the past year there has been much hype surrounding the store's opening with predictions of massive queues and impatient customers, but this morning the queues were less than expected.
By 7am only a die hard group of about 20 were lined up waiting for the international retail chain to open. By 8.30am that number increased to around 100.
In the lead up to the big event, a lot of planning had gone into ensuring the stampedes experienced at the opening of other stores in the UK and Europe did not take place here.
Among those in line were people from all over Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Amanda and Gareth Stewart from Kinallen near Dromara were the first in line. The couple are hoping to furnish their spare bedroom before Christmas.
They arrived at 11.30pm last night and were surprised to be the first in line.
"We thought there would be more people here," Amanda said. " We were surprised to be first. We got here at 11.30pm and slept in our van. We hope to furnish our spare bedroom in time for Christmas and we plan on being here for as long as it takes."
Siv Moltu-Jacobsen, who is originally from Norway but now lives in Kildare, said she had been waiting for Ikea to open in Ireland for the past 11 years.
She said: "I arrived here last night. I was expecting more people because I'd heard on the news that they only had 2,000 car parking spaces.
"I was surprised to find that I'm at the front of the line. I'm looking forward to finding furniture for my living room and to sampling some Swedish food. I have missed Ikea."
Among those in line were a handful of people who had come dressed up in Swedish costume. Ikea were giving away vouchers for the best dressed people. Wendy McGuire from Belfast came dressed as a Viking. She said she had been waiting for Ikea to open for months and could not wait to get inside.
She said: "I got here at 7.30am. I've been waiting for this store to open for ages. I plan on buying fabrics and bedding, and anything else I can find. I used to travel to Scotland or Birmingham before, but now I don't have to go so far."