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Dublin Lord Mayor vows to call meeting over street traders' Christmas ban

Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu to hold meeting about the issue

Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu to hold meeting about the issue

Conor Feehan

Dublin's Lord Mayor Hazel Chu is to convene a meeting between street traders and council officials to try and quell a row over the cancellation of the annual Christmas market on Henry Street.

Dublin City Council last week cancelled the traditional market, citing public health fears over Covid-19.

However, the move angered traders, who said if the shops on the street are allowed to open then they should be allowed to trade also.

The traders said they fully understand that if the Level 5 restrictions remain in place, and the shops cannot open, then they would have to remain shut also.

So far, the move by the council has only affected the Henry Street traders, who claim there is a lack of consistency and transparency if they are shut but other markets remain open elsewhere in the city.

The row was brought to the attention of a council meeting on Monday night, and Lord Mayor Hazel Chu said she would convene a meeting to see if any solution or clarity could be found.

"We are hopeful. I'm a positive person and you have to have hope," said Sinn Féin councillor Janice Boylan, who comes from a street trading tradition and is a member of the Henry Street traders committee.

Sadie Grace, who chairs the committee, said the Henry Street traders are being used as "guinea pigs" by the council.

"They seem to single us out when it comes to making changes. There is no consistency in the way they approach us compared to other markets on other streets," she said.

Last week, a number of traders expressed their anger over the council decision to close the market, which has been running for around 80 years.

"If the shops will be able to open in December we think it's unfair that we can't trade," said Lorraine Owens, the third generation of her family to trade on the street.

"Markets elsewhere don't seem to be affected, so we think there is a lack of consistency in the decision," she added.

Independent Councillor Nial Ring accused the council of making the traders a "soft target".

"The contradictions are huge. If the shops are allowed to open then the traders should be allowed to trade.

"The council seems to be against anything that creates a bit of Christmas atmosphere," he said.

Dublin City Council said the decision to close the street market was regrettable.

"Christmas traders are a huge part of the festive season in Dublin and we realise that many people will be disappointed. We are too, but safety must come first," said a DCC spokeswoman.

"An independent risk assessment commissioned by the council on the Christmas trading on Henry Street/Mary Street indicated that an increase in Covid-19 cases in Dublin due to increased risk of virus transmission was in the highest risk rating category and that the non-maintaining of minimum social distancing was in the very highest risk rating category.

"As the council cannot mitigate these risks, it was decided, on public health grounds, that the traditional Christmas trading on Henry Street/Mary Street could not proceed in 2020.

"The Council has arranged the carrying out risk assessments on other on-street trading areas in the City to ascertain if it is safe from a public health point of view for trading to recommence in these locations in December."

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