The decision this week by the city council to overwhelmingly endorse the Christmas Market planned for Eyre Square next month is one that should be welcomed by all locals, despite prophecies of doom issued from some quarters that Galway is not a suitable venue in which to hold it.
Any town or city in Ireland would give its right arm to host an event that will be visited by an average of 10,000 visitors a day for 30 successive days. The presence of the market in Galway could be the deciding factor in people choosing where to do their Christmas shopping this year and in times such as this, we should not be looking a gift horse in the mouth.
Some of the objections from those opposed to it seem to centre on the amount of money that the city council will receive from the organisers, but these figures (€10,000 a year ) are surely insignificant when viewed in the wider context of just how beneficial this will be to the economy of the city this winter. These can surely be reviewed annually, depending on the success of the event. Other concerns expressed were based around the presence of a public "bier kellar" are also subsidiary when you consider that most of the city centre operates as an unofficial bier kellar all year round.
While there were calls from one councillor for the event to be scrapped because it will surely fail, such predictions have been rubbished by the fact that almost all of the stalls have been snapped up for the event which will adorn Eyre Square and at last give it the sort of purpose which it has forever been lacking. The argument that it will take business away from the city centre shops has also been discarded, because there is no doubt that 300,000 people frequenting the fair will also leave some of their Christmas spend downtown.
The days of hoping that a few trinkets or stringy Christmas lights were enough to make people do their shopping locally are long gone. In these stringent times, what is needed is an event like this that will give Galway the sort of Christmas soul it needs.
Now that the event has been given the green light, it is time for us all to embrace it, for businesses to build offers around it, for hotels to contract shop and stay packages, for it to be given a unique Galway stamp like the Irish language signage that has been proposed.
It is far better that people have the option to come to Galway for a different shopping experience this year.
Would these same people wish that the event was being held in Limerick or Cork?
This event which starts on November 19 has the potential to be marvellous. For a city full of festivals, we fall flat in wintertime. In these changed times, Galway has to be able to show that it can evolve and meet the challenges and host events like the VOR and this. We passed the first test with flying colours. Making a success of the Christmas market could be the start of a journey that will change forever the shape of winter business in Galway. Bring it on.