Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Councillor says 'no justification' for extending Belfast Sunday opening - do you agree?

Belfast council has rejected motion to designate the city a holiday resort.
Belfast council has rejected motion to designate the city a holiday resort.
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

A Belfast councillor has said there is "no justification" in opening up shops in the city on a Sunday morning.

The UUP's Jim Rodgers was speaking on Tuesday morning's Radio Ulster Nolan show.

"We need to be convinced there is a real need and that's the key," he said, "unless that can be proven otherwise I couldn't support it.

"The last time [the council] discussed this we came to the decision no, we could not justify it."

Should Belfast shops open earlier on a Sunday?

Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Nolan show was discussing a proposal from Alliance councillor Kate Nicholl to allow the city to become a designated holiday resort which would allow shops to open earlier. It was rejected by the council last year.

Pointing to the number of cruise ships visiting the city every year, she said she was "baffled" new money from tourists was not being taken advantage of.

"It is a missed opportunity," she said, "We have the power to change this.

"There are valid reasons [for the current position] but there is also legislation to protect people.

"If you are religious and don't want to work on a Sunday, you can not be compelled to do so. If you are religious and do not want to shop, you don't have to.

"It is about creating choice. Allowing people to shop if they want to and business to open if they want to and some workers want to work on a Sunday.

"And Belfast would not be an example. Derry, Newry, Kilkeel, Portrush and Ballycastle are all designated holiday spots.

"The fact the shops are not open, the bars close early does not help our cause."

Last year the council rejected a proposal to allow the city to become a holiday resort. Two public consultations were held on the matter. It would have allowed large shops to extend their hours on 18 Sundays each year. Independent retailers agreed with the decision saying a broader strategy was needed to bring to have more activities for visitors over the weekend.

"We asked for figures on how many people would be shopping if times changed to say 10am or 11am and what would it meant and we were not impressed," said Jim Rodgers.

He said many of the thousands of passengers on the cruise ships never put foot on the shore and there was plenty of other attractions in the city.

"People don't want to be shopping every day of the week," he said.

"The trade unions pressed us very hard. People go out on a sat night and they like a lie in. The most important thing was footfall.

"No body has been able to justify why we should open any early. 

"For many, many years people said Belfast was one of the few cities in Europe that don't open on Sunday. Absolute bunkum.

"I have been to many cities around Europe and they don't open at all - at all - on a Sunday."

He added: "If someone can convince me there is a demand, I will look at it.

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