All 26 counties represented as hordes of Southern shoppers invade Newry


Hundreds of thousands of euro were spent as Newry’s shops benefited handsomely yesterday

THEY LAUNCHED a one-day strike – and invaded Newry.

“It’s unbelievable in there,” said one of the two men staffing the small kiosk at the entrance to the car park of the Quays shopping complex in Newry. “We haven’t seen a day like it on any day of the year. It’s because of the strike, there’s no doubt about it.”

He wasn’t joking. There are over 1,000 spaces in the car park. I drove around for half an hour before I managed to snaffle one, squeezing in between two “D” reg vehicles.

Hundreds of thousands of euro were being spent at Sainsbury’s, Next, Argos, Burger King, River Island and at jewellers, sports, games and numerous other shops.

A random check of 100 vehicles in one car park section revealed that 88 were from the Republic. Extrapolate from that, and you have up to 900 cars laden with Southern people and their money.

Going around the car park, vehicles from the twelve Leinster counties could be seen in jig time, all of Connacht was there, and so were representatives of Ulster’s three Southern counties – Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan. There was no shortage of Kerry or Cork cars, and Waterford and Clare too, and Tipperary of course, north and south riding. But surely there had to be someone up from Limerick? “They must have had trouble crossing the Shannon with all the flooding,” thought Thomas Finnegan from Irishtown in Dublin, who travelled North with his wife Janet and their daughter Nissa (6).

There was no school for Nissa due to the strike, so they decided they’d take advantage of the day off with some early Christmas shopping. “I didn’t realise the rest of the country would be here as well,” said Thomas, as he drove around fruitlessly searching for a parking space.

He’s a crane driver, out of work since June because of the building crash. “I don’t have much sympathy with the strikers to tell you the truth – at least they have a job,” he said. “If they don’t want to work they should go on the dole.”

The prison officer from the midlands getting out of his blue BMW didn’t want to give his name. But a “stand” had to be taken. “It’s like my wife says – if you take a lollipop off a child and the child doesn’t bitch, the child will never see another sweet.”

Graham, a striking Dublin City Council worker from the inner city, was in Newry with his wife and mother.

“I hate shopping,” he said with conviction, “but it’s better to be getting bargains here than being on the picket line in Dublin.”

A Co Louth teacher agreed, saying that if she was going to lose a day’s pay at least she would recoup some of her losses through the Newry bargains.

Jim, a construction worker from Naas in Co Kildare who was putting some of his purchases in his car, said he had little reason to feel solidarity with the strikers. Perhaps he was emboldened in his honesty by the fact that his wife, a striking teacher, was still away in the shops.

He reserved his ire for the Government. “They are telling us not to come here, and spend our money down South. Why? So they can give it to the banks!”

Six or seven weeks ago there was no charge in the Quays for parking, but now, squeezing every penny from the visitors, it’s a pound an hour. Paying my three pounds as I exited, I was delighted to spot a Limerick reg – “L” for Luimneach – completing the 26 counties.

You’d hate for anyone to be left out on strike day – the day the South invaded.