Belfast Telegraph

Unionist councillors vote down possibility of car park ticket machines accepting Euro coins

Unionist councillors on Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council have voted down a request to investigate the possibility of car park ticket machines accepting Euro coins across the council area.

Armagh SDLP Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon slammed those who voted against move and said the stance does nothing to support struggling businesses in the area.

Councillor O’Hanlon explained said: "At the council’s Economic Development Committee during the month, when discussing free parking in the run up to Christmas, I asked officials to investigate the possibility of ticket machines accepting Euro Coins and all at the committee agreed this request. 

"However, when it came to ratify the committee meetings at tonight's monthly council meeting, unionist members of council voted on block to object to the request.

"I am astonished at the narrow mindedness of this approach, all I asked was that it be investigated and costed. As a Councillor I can only make a decision when I am presented with the facts, costs and implications of any decision but to throw out the request to only look at the issue is unbelievable.

"I was prompted in this request when I approached by a man in Armagh who was shopping in the city, he was from Monaghan.  He was in the city to take advantage of the strong Euro, when he went to pay for his parking he discovered that he had no sterling and the machine didn't accept Euro.  He went into a shop, which accepted Euro, he got change and by the time he got back to the car he had received a £90 fine for failing to pay and display.  This left a very sour taste in the man’s mouth.

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Border towns boom time as southern shoppers flock to Northern Ireland 

"It was only last month that some unionist councillors were boasting that the carparks were full of cars with southern number-plates and now they’re sending out a message that your Euro is not welcome in our area."

Cross-border shopping is at a six-year high with some Northern Ireland retailers reporting an annual sales increase of more than 60%. Post-Brexit, business is booming for traders in Belfast, Newry, Enniskillen, Armagh, Strabane and Londonderry, while hotels, pubs and restaurants in border towns have also seen a significant surge in profits.

New data from IntertradeIreland also shows that between July and September - the full three months that followed the historic Brexit vote - there were more Republic-registered cars at shopping centres in Northern Ireland since cross-border shopping peaked in the aftermath of the Irish property crash.

Figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph from Translink also revealed a 20% hike in train ticket sales between Dublin and Belfast last month, with a "noticeable increase" in numbers in recent weeks.

Councillor O’Hanlon added: "This small mindedness is petty and pathetic.  It already happens in Newry, Mourne and Down so it's nothing new, it's not rocket science.  It's was the petty politics of the past at its worst and does nothing to support some of the struggling businesses across our council area."

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