TRADERS at South Belfast’s St George’s Market are celebrating after learning the popular Sunday market trading hours will face no more interruptions by other events.
The recent decision at Belfast City Council divided councillors, some of whom sought to yet again delay the final outcome by discussing possible legal implications, but this was outvoted.
A number of organisations, some representing minority ethnic communities, used the historic venue for annual events on a Sunday. However, traders demanded this cease, so that every Sunday could be used for market trading, continuing to pull in growing numbers of visitors.
In favour of the traders’ position was SDLP South Belfast Councillor Bernie Kelly, who told the recent monthly meeting: “There’s a lot of talk about recession. Consider the contribution the traders are making to our local economy.” Yet fellow South Belfast Councillor Christopher Stalford of the DUP said groups behind events including the Festival of India and Chinese New Year were being “turfed out”.
“Where’s the harm in taking this back for a month in order to get the actual legal position to see if we are obliged to make the venue available for community use?” he asked.
During a vote on the issue, those in favour of keeping Sundays exclusively for trading won the day, and no more bookings for Sundays will be taken.
However, it is understood a small number of events already booked before this decision will still go ahead.
Speaking to the South Belfast News, the Belfast branch chair of the National Market Retailers Association, Pat Dwyer, said: “On behalf of the traders we are overjoyed about this. Almost every publication about Belfast aimed at tourists mentions the market and states we are open on Sundays. It’s important that consistency is provided for the customers, who continue to visit, making Sunday a great day out at St George’s.”