A trader at the historic St Nicholas’ street market in Galway has called on the Galway City Council to ditch its plan to drive the world-famous, 400-year-old artisan food and craft market from the city.
Only two in five stalls have been allowed back since the lockdown was lifted, even though the Government roadmap has cleared them all to reopen. Their owners’ fear is that the City Council is using the effects of the pandemic to move the market away from the shadows of the historic 14th century St Nicholas Church, into a what they have called “a dreary no-man’s land” on the Dyke Road.
“People are very fearful”, says organic farmer Cáit Curran, who has traded every Saturday for the past 30 years. “Around 50 traders have been locked out. Some are worried they will never be allowed back. Others are afraid they won’t get their old spot back. There are 80 traders, employees and families affected. Their livelihoods are on the line”, she said.
'The Dyke Road is a red line and Woodquay is a bridge too far. Neither meets the equivalent location in the vicinity test in casual trading law'
Proposals have been put to the City Council to keep all traders and the entire market in their historic environs. One option is to extend along Market Street and into Church Lane. Another is to continue around the corner to Mainguard Street, which is quite wide.
Could traders move to Eyre Square?
A third could see some traders setting up in Eyre Square. In all proposals, ambience and footfall are preserved and centuries-old Saturday trading is maintained. City Hall has rejected them all.
Cáit Curran says she is there for the long haul. “The St Nicholas’ Market has operated for four centuries in the heart of Galway”, she says. “If it’s driven down the Dyke Road, it will die, it’s that simple. The people of Galway, the 2.7 million tourists who come to Galway, will lose a unique experience.
“The colour, the hustle, the bustle, will be obliterated at the stroke of a pen. The City Council has to rethink, has to reopen, has to allow all stalls to return. Traders have been managing social distancing measures, proving that this open-air market is safe for shoppers, safer even than enclosed shopping centres. But the Dyke Road is a red line and Woodquay is a bridge too far. Neither meets the equivalent location in the vicinity test in casual trading law. The Council can expect traders to fight to keep long-held rights,” she said.