Is Moore Street market past its sell-by date?

Facing change from the council and German discounters, the market still wins on price

Catherine Kennedy at her stall in Moore Street. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Catherine Kennedy at her stall in Moore Street. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

When Pete St John wrote his paean to Dublin “in the rare ould times” in the 1970s he mourned the demise of the cooper’s trade, the demolition of the protagonist’s Pimlico home and the disappearance of the “Pillar and the Met . . . and the Royal, long since pulled down”.

If he wanted to update the song for a 21st century audience he might add a line about the death knell sounding for the Moore Street market stalls at the heart of the capital’s north inner city

Dublin’s oldest food market, with a history stretching back more than 200 years, is not under immediate threat, but the city council has rolled out plans to “bring order” to the place.

Some of its supporters fear this reshaping and tidying up might permanently alter its character and hasten its closure.

But maybe Moore Street is past its sell-by date already?

There is no longer much sign of the hustle and bustle once ever-present and the shouts of the hawkers selling bananas at “10 for a pow-ind” are a whole lot quieter than they used to be.

There was no shouting at all on the street yesterday morning and less than half of the 25 stalls were in use. The butchers have all moved indoors.

It is hardly much of a surprise.

Traders on the street have spoken of their reluctance – or their inability – to hand over the reins to the younger generation, preferring instead to see their children through the education system and into better-paid jobs away from the wet and cold in which they often have to work on the street. And as the number of stallholders declines, so too does the number of people shopping on the street.

This is hardly much of a surprise, given the choice consumers have nowadays to look elsewhere for cheaper fruit and vegetables.

The traders’ modern competition is close at hand.

At the top of Moore Street is a Lidl store, selling a range of produce that the traders can hardly match.

There’s an Aldi store less than 100 metres up Parnell Street.

When people think of value shopping, these names may cross their minds quicker than Moore Street.

And as well as the German discounters, there’s a Tesco sitting nearby on Parnell Street and a Dunnes Stores branch in the Ilac Centre, both pushing their special bargains.

While the quality of some of the produce on Moore Street can be dubious, and the stallholders are still famously reluctant to let shoppers handle the merchandise, it is heartening to see the traders holding their own in the price wars and sometimes winning.

The old-school traders are selling eight healthy-looking tomatoes for €1, while Lidl is charging the same price for six.

An avocado – albeit a very soft one – is 25 cent on the street while rock hard ones on the shelves in Lidl are 69 cent.

A banana, which costs about 20 cent in supermarkets, will cost as little as 8 cent from the stalls.

But cheap fruit and vegetables may not be enough to hold back the tide of progress as it sweeps in off O’Connell Street.

Only time will tell if the market has a future.