Northern Ireland news

Belfast newspaper vendor keeping people up to date during Covid-19 lockdown

Andy McAllister at the spot where he sells newspapers on Belfast's Malone Road each Sunday. Picture by Mal McCann

"THE only day, the only week I haven't been out in 60 years was when the army shut Belfast down."

Andy McAllister has been out with his news stand on Belfast's Malone Road every Sunday since lockdown began, selling papers to passing motorists and people out on their single exercise outing.

The doughty pensioner is determined to stay out for as long as people are allowed to leave their homes and buy newspapers, even as everything changes around him.

"It's slow like, not normal, but you just have to do your best," he said.

"One of the police was there on Sunday and said to me, `You shouldn't be there'. My two sons help me and they were there to put him straight.

"I'm there every week and police are up and down the road plenty of times and never bothered me.

"I'm 77 and started when I was 17 at the top of Tate's Avenue. The only week we never did papers was when they closed Belfast down

"The army came in and that was the start of the Troubles.

"But even during the workers' strike I was able to get petrol in my car and they were able to get the papers printed and I was out selling them.

"I've been doing it that long I'll just keep going."

His sons Andrew and Jim have stalls on nearby Lisburn Road and at Drumbeg, on the outskirts of Lisburn.

Sunday's sales picked up after a sharp fall at the beginning of the lockdown period.

"I think people aren't wanting to go to a shop to wait in a long queue when maybe they only want a paper so they're coming back here again.

"Sales are down by about a quarter. Certain ones, the (Daily) Telegraph, Observer and Mail on Sunday have come back up again, but the populars, the Sunday World, the (Sunday) Life and the Irish Independent, are still down."

Mr McAllister, who travels from Lisburn to sell the papers from 8am-3pm, spends the other six days of the week fixing cars in his garage on the Donegall Road.

"Sure what else would I be doing but working?"

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Northern Ireland news