Casual traders who sell goods on Dublin’s Henry and Mary Street in the run up to Christmas have criticised Dublin City Council’s decision not to allow stalls to operate this year on health and safety grounds.
Sadie Grace, chair of the Committee for Casual Trading, said the group had been negotiating with the council for weeks about how to safely sell their wares and felt the final decision was “unfair” and “shortsighted”.
The council confirmed on Thursday that the traditional Christmas trading on Henry Street and Mary Street would not take place this December due to Covid-19 restrictions. It said the decision had been made to protect the health and safety of traders, the general public and council staff.
“Christmas traders are a huge part of the festive season in Dublin and we realise that many people will be disappointed,” said a statement from the council. “We are too, but safety must come first.”
Ms Grace, who said she has been selling goods from a Christmas stall for “over 60 years”, said the traders had been engaging with the council on the issue since the summer and were willing to take all the necessary measures to protect themselves and the public.
“I don’t want to stand at my stall and get Covid, I want to keep myself safe. No one would be welcome at my stall without a mask,” she said.
“I’ve never missed a Christmas in my whole life. My mother used to sell out there and my uncle got his first licence for selling holy pictures about 80 years ago. It’s always been hard work but it’s lovely.”
The committee, she said, feels the Henry Street and Mary Street stall owners have been singled out as other Christmas markets may still go ahead.
“Let’s be fair, if I have to tell my traders we can’t trade then nobody should be allowed to trade this Christmas.”
She argued that the council’s report on footfall, which helped inform the decision to halt casual trading, was based on last Christmas and not the projected numbers who would go shopping in the city centre during a pandemic.
She also said the traders’ offer to forfeit one week of sales in order to allow more time for planning was rejected.
“This is a vital income for people during challenging times. We just want a fair hearing, why are we treated like this? It’s because we’re at the lower scale of the economy.”
Gráinne Quinn, head of the Irish Organisation of Markets and Street Traders, said she was very disappointed with the council’s decision and urged them to wait another couple of weeks and make a final decision in early December based on Covid-19 case numbers.
Traders have been selling their wares at Christmas “since they were in prams with their parents”, she said.
“These traders will be losing out on a lot more than just money, there’s the social aspect. The older generation won’t know what to do with themselves. We have members who are in their 70s and they want to go out and chat with people.”
Many traders are already set to lose out on the stock they bought earlier in the year in anticipation of selling this Christmas, said Ms Quinn.
“This is a great boost for people to earn a few bob for the Christmas period, this has never happened before. The council said they wanted to make the decision as early as possible so people wouldn’t buy stock but it’s too late for that.”