Coleraine DVA jobs: Traders fear the worst after latest devastating blow
There were glum faces everywhere in Coleraine yesterday as businesses and shoppers started to come to terms with the impact of the loss of DVA jobs at the heart of the town's economy.
The news that almost 300 jobs would be going at County Hall made widespread headlines. But it was locally where the wider impact of the news could be visibly seen.
A quick look around gave a sense of a town centre that has seen better days.
Leading retailers have long moved out of town to attract a wider range of passing trade, while many shops are boarded up, having struggled and failed to cope with the impact of the economic downturn.
Just yards from the huge building that houses the DVA staff, a unit of businesses sat eerily quiet as ordinary people reeled from the announcement.
Butcher Frank Mullan said the news was a devastating blow to shop owners who had come to rely on the County Hall trade.
"I estimate their business makes up about 30% of our income and without it I'm very worried for ourselves and for Coleraine in general," he said.
"Coleraine has become a ghost town, the town centre is dead and this is just another nail in the coffin. That trade was a lifeline to so many of us."
Robin Smith, assistant manager of the nearby Spar, said the impact could be seen on the faces of shoppers. "We do a very busy trade, especially in the morning and lunchtime from County Hall. You can see in people's faces today that they are disgruntled and that's understandable, it's a tragedy for the town.
"This is the latest blow in a town that appears to be crumbling around us. DVA is probably the biggest single employer left in the town and there just doesn't seem to be any end to the exodus."
Gary Davis, owner of the Turf&Surf chip shop, said he would have to consider changing his opening hours, which would mean staff cuts.
"Our lunchtime specials are catered toward those workers. Without them it might not even be worth our while opening at lunchtime, and that means less hours for those that I employ.
"I employ seven people at the minute and their jobs may all be impacted by the job losses up the road, that's how much of a ripple effect this will have," he said.
Meta Gayle (29) said she worried for her part-time job because work had already been scarce in the town, while self-employed painter Mark Lamount said it was going to be very hard for the DVA staff to get new jobs.
He said: "The young people without families might be more flexible to move to other roles but the older people will be left behind. Coleraine didn't need this."