Market fury as street traders get permission

THE businessman who spearheaded the €2.5 million re-development of Limerick’s famed Milk Market has accused the city council of undermining the retail project – by allowing nearby street traders to compete at lower charges.

As part of the re-development, a huge canopy measuring about a half acre was placed over the market square on a 79ft high mast.

New retailing areas were also incorporated along with a balcony coffee shop.

However, David O’Mahony, chairman of the Market Trustees who manage the market which dates back to 1852, said a decision of the city council to permit 35 stall holders to compete with the market traders by trading on nearby Ellen Street was undermining the viability of traders who pay to set up stalls in the market.

Mr O’Mahony stormed out of a recent meeting with senior officials at City Hall, saying he was disgusted at the decision of the city council.

Mr O’ Mahony, who runs one of the country’s biggest book stores on Limerick’s O’Connell Street, wants the council to suspend the trading licences issued to the traders on Ellen Street.

He said: “They didn’t even have the courtesy to inform the market trustees. They are piggybacking on a significant investment we have made, and undermining the financial viability of the market by duplicating many of the offerings of the Milk Market on another nearby location.”

Some traders, he said, had moved out of the Milk Market to trade on Ellen Street because the charge was lower. Others, he said, have been forced to duplicate their operations on Ellen Street.

Mr O’Mahony said: “We have worked on this development for seven years with the City Council at every stage. I find it absolutely astonishing that they can conceive of a plan without talking to the people who have the biggest vested interest, particularly after a €2.5m investment.

“I am horrified and pretty disgusted really. They don’t seem to realise that anything that is happening on the outside of the market will have a bearing on the inside.”

Mr O’Mahony said that, for the first time in his business career, he walked out of a meeting when he discussed the issue at City Hall. He said: “They don’t seem to realise that it will significantly jeopardise the viability of the plan.”

Mayor Maria Byrne, who is a market trustee, said the council was bound by a European directive to deliver a certain level of street-side market space.

She said the new Milk Market was drawing huge numbers every Saturday morning and the public are appreciating what is on offer inside the market walls and on the nearby street.

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