Belfast Telegraph

Souvenir seller's disappointment as he is evicted from Causeway after 40 years

By Cate McCurry

A family who ran a souvenir business at the Giant's Causeway for more than 70 years say its imminent closure is not the end for them.

Tommy McConaghy (70), who has worked in McConaghy's Souvenir Shop along with his wife Ann for 40 years, was given an eviction notice by the National Trust last year.

The family challenged the order, but have been told to shut up shop by the end of January.

The trust, which runs a visitor centre at Northern Ireland's only Unesco World Heritage site, is proposing to turn the shop into toilet facilities.

But Tommy has vowed not to give up and is exploring the option of setting up a traditional horse and cart in the area. His daughter Julie is also opening a new souvenir shop in Bushmills.

"When it closes we will be gutted. My mother and father opened in 1947, it's the end of an era," Tommy said.

Despite a campaign to save the shop from closure, the National Trust took the decision not to renew the lease.

"All we want to do is work in the shop but the National Trust is stopping us from doing that," Tommy added.

"Our business was trading at the stones of the Giant's Causeway long before the National Trust set foot in Co Antrim.

"In fact they consulted me when building their visitor centre and my vast knowledge of the Causeway passed down through family generations was invaluable. I provided the trust with family pictures from years gone by which are on display in the centre. This is how I was kindly repaid."

He said that despite two meetings with the National Trust they were not able to reach an agreement over the site.

The National Trust said: "The current lease on McConaghy's shop expired in November 2017 and the National Trust advised the leaseholder that due to current and future visitor needs they were not in a position to renew the lease.

"The National Trust submitted a planning application for change of use of the space adjacent to the Causeway Hotel, in order to provide baby changing facilities and additional male, female and accessible WCs.

"This is in response to growing visitor numbers and requests for facilities to be available outside visitor centre opening hours.

"The Giant's Causeway welcomes visitors from local and international markets and works hard to ensure that the visitor experience is world class.

"Since 2011 visitor numbers have increased at the World Heritage Site from 533,000 visitors to 1,000,0000 visitors in 2017.

"The National Trust acknowledges the contribution that the McConaghy family has made at the site and confirms the decision to submit the planning application was not taken lightly, but with good intent to address increasing visitor pressures."

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