Retailers ‘now ready to embrace car ban’

Retailers in Cork City who led opposition to the St Patrick’s Street car ban are ready to move beyond the controversy and embrace change, according to one of the organisers of a meeting tonight on the future of retail.

Michael Mulcahy, who heads up the Little Island business association, said several city centre retailers who were concerned about the impact of afternoon bus lanes on St Patrick’s Street felt their voice had not been heard during the debate on the so-called ‘Pana ban’.

“Some were perhaps guilty of focusing on the negativity when there is so much to be positive about,” he said.

They are a group of people who have always accepted that a proper public transport plan was required, and that bus lanes are part of that. But we’ve talked the Pana ban to death now. The negativity has done us no favours. We are moving beyond that now.

“This is no longer about dissension. It’s about positivity and progress. The only way forward is a model of progression. It’s about embracing change and looking at the retail model and adjusting to changing times.”

Mr Mulcahy was speaking ahead of tonight’s meeting in the Clayton Convention Centre Silver Springs on the future of retail, which will be addressed by David Fitzsimons, the CEO of Retail Excellence Ireland, and Bryan Rankin, its head of public affairs.

Mr Mulcahy is listed as an organiser of the event alongside pharmacist John Minihan, jeweller Tim Keane, clothes shop owners Pam O’Regan and Eddie Mullins, toy shop owner Wyon Stansfeld and shoe shop owner, Paul Gallagher, who is also a council member of Retail Excellence Ireland.

All were very vocal in their opposition to the St Patrick’s St afternoon car ban when it was first introduced last March.

While some declined to comment publicly when the traffic management measure was reintroduced last August, several have continued to voice concerns about its impact on the levels of city centre retail trade.

Mr Mulcahy insisted that tonight’s meeting isn’t about setting up a rival group to the Cork Business Association, which supported the reintroduction of the bus lanes and pushed for a range of supporting measures, including an extended park and ride service and free parking.

Mr Mulcahy said that he hopes the meeting will lead to the development of an “all of Cork retail model”.

“The CBA is not solely retail. They have to satisfy a whole range of sectors and retailers felt they needed a voice,” he said.

It is estimated that the retail sector in Cork city and county employs around 35,000 people in 5,000 businesses and contributes more than €5bn to the Irish economy annually.

Tonight’s meeting is scheduled to start at 6.30pm.

Last month, city councillors voted again to back the bus lanes with FF Cllr Terry Shannon accusing those who are still engaged in negative commentary on the measure of “cutting their own throats”.

The time-regulated bus lanes on St Patrick’s St operate 3pm to 6.30pm seven days a week.

The measure is one of the most controversial elements of the wider City Centre Movement Strategy which is designed to future-proof the city’s public transport system ahead of an influx of thousands of new city centre office jobs over the next two to three years.

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