Shoppers swarm across Border

 

Hordes of people surged across the Border into Northern Ireland as they used today’s national public sector strike to stock up on Christmas shopping.

The AA reported traffic tailbacks of up to six kilometres, stretching from Newry back to the M1, which it said was unusual for a normal Tuesday.

Many of the shoppers were public sector workers who were reluctant to be identified but said they were taking advantage of the strike to stock up on groceries and goods.

Other shoppers were families of children who were off for the day as schools across the country shut down.

Shops well used to bargain-hunters swarming in from the Republic described the surprise spike in business as similar to a busy weekend or bank holiday.

Peter Murray, manager of the Buttercrane shopping centre, said it was “like squeezing a quart into a pint pot” as the city tried to cope with the influx.

“We get more customers at the weekends and when people are off and there’s a fair few people off today - obviously not all on the picket lines,” he said. “A considerable few of them are doing a bit of Christmas shopping in Newry.”

Mr Murray estimated about half of the customers at the Buttercrane during the day had travelled in from the Republic, compared with between 25 and 40 per cent during a normal weekday.

Nearby at the Quays shopping complex, manager Cathal Austin said they were approaching capacity even while making full use of the overspill carparks.

“It is noticeably busier in the mall, the car park is noticeably busier. I would describe it as similar to a busy Saturday or a busy bank holiday," he said. “It’s unusual for a Tuesday but nothing we wouldn’t see on a public or school holiday in the south.”