Donaldson urges shoppers to come North


Northern Ireland business leaders were today urged to do all they can to attract shoppers from the Republic - despite objections from Dublin.

Shoppers from the Republic have been travelling north in droves to benefit from the strength of the euro, and the British government plan to cut VAT from next month offers a further incentive.

Stormont junior minister Jeffrey Donaldson has said traders in the south were able to undercut fuel prices for years and he welcomed the fact that the economic tables had now turned.

He also questioned why the Government in Dublin should brand spending money in one part of the island unpatriotic.

“The recent cut in VAT means retailers in Northern Ireland are very well placed to offer some attractive prices to shoppers in the Republic,” said Democratic Unionist Party MLA Mr Donaldson.

“The tables have turned. It was not so long ago that our retailers were suffering when it worked the other way around.

“I would encourage retailers in Northern Ireland to advertise to shoppers in the Republic to do their Christmas shopping in Northern Ireland and hopefully that would provide a boost to the economy.”

Mr Donaldson represents the Lagan Valley constituency, which covers parts of counties Antrim and Down and includes retail outlets benefiting from cross-border trade, including Lisburn’s Sprucefield complex.

Last month, when the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan unveiled the Government’s austere budget, he said support for the Republic’s economy was a patriotic duty.

In a recent RTÉ interview, the Minister said: “When you shop in Northern Ireland, you’re paying Her Majesty’s taxes, you’re not paying taxes to the state that you live in.”

Mr Donaldson also challenged Fianna Fáil's nationalist credentials.

“It is interesting that the Irish Government supports a united Ireland, but when it comes to patriotism, that only extends to the 26 counties of the Republic,” said Mr Donaldson.

A Fianna Fáil spokesman tonight insisted people should pay taxes in the state where they live. But the party deemed it acceptable for people living near to the Border to shop wherever was closest.

“Our view is that people should pay taxes in the area in which they live, as these taxes provide for the public services of which they avail,” said the spokesman. “This approach is to the benefit of both sides of the Border no matter which currency is stronger or weaker.

“Obviously areas in close proximity of the Border are a different case as people should be entitled to avail of the services most convenient to them.”