Belfast Telegraph

Bombed Banbridge is back in business

By Claire McGahan

TRADERS in the devastated heart of Banbridge today opened again for business six days after the 500lb car bomb in the centre of the town.

TRADERS in the devastated heart of Banbridge today opened again for business six days after the 500lb car bomb in the centre of the town.

It was a busy Saturday afternoon in the shopping hub of Bridge Street when two bomb warnings were received.

Banbridge has been targeted by bombers in the past. There have also been many alerts and when the warning came through on Saturday many people thought it was another hoax.

Police frantically started to clear the crowds. But the warnings were hopelessly inadequate and 35 people were injured as the bomb exploded, demolishing buildings and showering the busy thoroughfare with glass and rubble.

Today the last pieces of glass were swept away and boards front the shops along a 100 yard stretch on both sides of the street.

And today traders were getting ready to reopen for business, many forced to sell off bomb damaged stock at up to 75% off original prices to try and bring the town back to normal.

Not all businesses, however, could open today. Some buildings have been judged too structurally unsafe to open and a number have already been demolished.

It is too late for the chemist shop beside the scene of the massive explosion. McCracken's Pharmacy was completely flattened in the blast and now the business will open again in nearby alternative premises.

Dissident republicans were blamed for Saturday's bombing, but according to businessman John Houston, chairman of Banbridge Chamber of Trade, it matters little to traders which group actually planted the bomb, which the Compensation Agency says will cost £3.5m, not including personal injury claims.

Banbridge, like the majority of people in Northern Ireland, voted for peace in the Referendum but have been left sceptical, wondering what sort of peace they backed, Mr Houston said.

'I think people are not naive enough to think that splinter groups don't originate from the main grouping,' he said.

'No Banbridge trader cares who actually bombed them. But the fact is that a republican group has come into this town to cause mass destruction and could have caused mass murder and certainly there's a great deal of unrest.

'There's unrest for example over the prisoner release issue due to what's been happening in Northern Ireland in recent months we are meant to be in theory in a time of ceasefire but it has been the worst commercial bombing of the last ten years.

'Everyone's prepared to take a gamble and make sacrifices to give peace to the province. But to make the concessions we have made and for the Troubles to be still causing mayhem there have got to be questions as to whether these concessions should continue.'However, there was some good news today for Banbridge.

The town is to get a Queen Mother's Birthday Award in recognition of a unique environmental scheme initiated by the council.

Chief Executive Bob Gilmore hailed the award as a tremendous boost for morale in the aftermath of a disastrous weekend.

The Tidy Britain Group honours those who have made significant and lasting improvement to the local environment and Banbridge has qualified through a project in which householders were given 7,500 containers to collect material for recycling and encouraged to take the waste to amenity sites.

Recycling units in the district were also extended and there are now 23 sites used by 14,000 households.

Council officials will travel to London on October 14 to receive the award.

Belfast Telegraph

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