Retail giant Dunnes Stores has been accused of “giving two fingers to the people of Cork”, after apparently ignoring the Lord Mayor’s request for a meeting to discuss the closure of one of its largest city stores.
Yesterday, the mayor, Sinn Féin’s Chris O’Leary, criticised the company for failing to acknowledge his correspondence, ahead of the closure, last week, of its North Main St outlet.
Mr O’Leary said he expected better from the company, given its historic links to Cork City — its first store was on St Patrick’s Street, having opened in March 1944, and founder, Ben Dunne, raised his family in the city’s historic Ringmahon House. This was refurbished by the Dunne family for the city’s Capital of Culture celebrations in 2005.
“I wasn’t acting on my own behalf, I was acting on behalf of the people of Cork. I listened to traders who had approached me, and who had asked me to step in, and I said I would, so I wrote to them. I felt that would be the least I could do,” said Mr O’Leary.
Mr O’Leary wrote to management at the North Main St branch, which closed on May 21, and to senior management at the company headquarters in Dublin. He asked them to delay the closure of the store, pending a meeting with city officials to explore potential ways to save it. He pointed out the company’s historic connection to Cork, over the last 80 years, and said the people of the city’s northside had been good customers.
“I also said if they couldn’t meet me in Cork, I would travel to meet them. I wanted to sit down with them to see what we could do. But I didn’t get any response. The silence was poor — it’s almost two fingers up to the people of Cork,” he said.
Mr O’Leary said he felt the company owed the people of Cork an explanation for the closure, and that he was extremely disappointed that they had ignored his request.
He said that he planned to write to the company again to outline his disappointment, and to again request a meeting. But, this time, the mayor said he now wanted to discuss with Dunnes Stores their long-term plans for Cork, including their presence in Merchant’s Quay shopping centre and their stalled plans for the redevelopment of their original store in Bishopstown, in the western suburbs.
FG councillor John Buttimer also raised questions about Dunnes Stores’ plans for its site on the Curraheen Road, in Bishopstown.
Senior planner, Ann Bogan, said a 2008 conditional grant of planning for the demolition of the existing shopping centre, and for the development of a mixed-use scheme, was extended in December 2015 to December 2019.
She said officials in the council’s development management section wrote to Dunnes Stores a number of months ago, enquiring about the company’s plans for this site. “But there has been no response, to date,” she said.
The company did not respond to queries from this newspaper, either last week or yesterday.
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