Northern Ireland news

Wonderful memories of a store that will rise from the ashes

Irish News reporter Marie Louise McConville, who has fond memories of working at Primark in Bank Buildings, says the staff are a very close-knit group who will stand together in the challenging times ahead

The Primark store in Belfast city centre before the fire. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Marie Louise McConville

MY heart just broke this week as I stood in Castle Junction, watching in horror as Primark went up in flames.

Like many others with a young family, I regularly shop in the city centre store - nipping in most lunchtimes in fact - for all the essentials and the odd bargain or 10.

However, my love affair with this wonderful brand began many years ago when I got one of my first jobs in the beautiful Bank Buildings as a part-time sales assistant.

On my first day, I realised that I wasn't just joining a workforce but a family, a community made up of men and women who genuinely looked out for each other.

Proudly dressed in my navy and white shirt and navy skirt, I came down the escalators to Department 8 on the ground floor - womenswear - and was immediately welcomed with open arms by both staff and management.

Over the next five years, Primark was my second home and despite often being exhausted from all the tidying up and having nightmares about folding and folding and folding, I adored every minute of working there and the firm was always there for me.

In fact, after having a change of heart about where to attend university and having to take a year out, Primark immediately came to my aid, offering me full-time work and a promotion to student supervisor to help me along my way.

I remember laughs at lunchtimes in the canteen, queues for the cash office on the fifth floor on pay day, the hysteria at receiving a holiday pay I didn't know was coming, and in particular how anyone who left either for another job or on maternity would be well looked after with generous whip rounds.

Colleagues were always there for advice, a hug, news of an upcoming bargain or a sneaky break in the stock room - they were my extended family.

Now, my heart breaks for them but I know they will rally and they can rest assured the whole of the city is behind them.

As one former colleague said to me yesterday, "We will build it back up Marie Louise" - and I know they will.

The building may have been destroyed but I have my wonderful memories of a store I just know will rise from the ashes.

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