Deputy Mayor insists Primark must pay for security around burnt-out Bank Buildings
Primark should pay for security guards at Belfast's burnt-out Bank Buildings as the council's bill is set to reach £300,000 by the end of the month, the city's Deputy Lord Mayor has said.
The cordon around the gutted store has been manned 24 hours a day since the August blaze, with six Eventsec security guards working in 12-hour shifts.
It was revealed by the BBC in September that the council had been paying the security bill. A total of £129,672 had been paid up until October 28, the figures showed.
Deputy Lord Mayor Emmet McDonough-Brown told BBC NI's Talkback show he thinks Primark should foot the bill as "the ratepayers can only bear so much".
He said: "I think really, for the ratepayer in Belfast to fund the security of the site, which is in private ownership, is really a stretch too far."
Mr McDonough-Brown said the council had initially stepped in because of "the exceptional circumstances of the Primark fire ... rather than waiting for insurers and litigation and liabilities to be established".
But SDLP councillor Donal Lyons said: "I think we need to use public money for part of it, but I do think there should be contributions from other stakeholders as well.
"If we accept that the building is standing and needs to be restored, once that decision was taken, the site needs to be secured - it is a public safety issue.
"We already have a principle of spending money on public safety and health through public health agency, through police and through various other things."
The landmark building on Castle Street was gutted by a fire which started on August 28 and raged until August 31.
Providing security in the aftermath has raked up a large bill which is set to hit £296,000 by December 31.
In a statement, the retailer said: "Primark has insurance in place that covers the incident at Bank Buildings. Any claims against Primark's policy of insurance as a result of the fire will be handled by our insurers directly but it would not be appropriate for us to comment further."
On Monday, Argento, McDonald's and Skechers reopened in the city centre, followed by Spar on Tuesday. A new walkway now allows shoppers to walk between Donegall Place and Royal Avenue. Primark will also reopen in Commonwealth House, on Castle Street, on Saturday.