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Let's hope this David can win over Goliath

Editor's Viewpoint

Not many people would have the courage to open a shop right on an interface, one of the many which pockmark north Belfast. But William Haire identified a need and set about meeting it in his own unique style.

And eight years later that outlet, built out of two shipping containers and selling the usual fare of a corner shop, is a popular facility open from dawn till late. Given its location, Mr Haire might have expected to be caught in the crossfire between militant groups on either side of the divide, but instead the flak has all come from the bureaucrats who want to close him down.

He has had to contend with planning issues, health and safety regulations and court hearings, due to what some might call bending of the rules.

And now he faces possible closure this summer as time runs out on an order seeking the shop's destruction.

While it can be argued that rules are rules, there surely must be some imagination used when determining each case.

This is a facility used by both sides of the community.

While the area is no one's idea of Nirvana, the mere presence of the store has led to people who never previously had anything to do with each other now meeting while calling into the shop.

It was peace-building by accident, but real all the same.

Many people would say that Mr Haire should be praised for both his entrepreneurship as well as his work in improving community spirit in a deprived location.

Single-handedly he has had a greater impact in that area than the might of the Stormont Executive, yet it is officialdom that wants to put him out of business.

And no one could accuse Mr Haire of holding the bureaucrats to ransom for personal gain. For he could have made a small fortune by selling the shop site, which he bought for a mere £8,500.

He breathed life into an area that was decaying before his very eyes and must wonder, as do his customers, if shutting him down is any sort of reward for his work.

If ever there was a David and Goliath fight over property, this is it. Surely commonsense could prevail and a compromise worked out that would allow a well-used local facility to continue, even in amended form. What gain will be achieved by shutting this shop down? If, as he threatens, Mr Haire has to eventually burn the thing down, a fine social enterprise will go up in smoke.

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