Northern Ireland news

Belfast businessman says £100,000 worth of damage to stock after Primark fire

Rory Curran from the Spinning Wheel in Fountain Street, Belfast. The business yesterday began a smoke damage sale following the Primark fire. Picture by Mal McCann
Marie Louise McConville

A BUSINESSMAN has said his fabric shop in Belfast city centre has suffered £100,000 worth of smoke damage to its stock due to the Primark fire.

Harold Curran, who has traded through some of the darkest days of the Troubles, said he has "never been so concerned and worried" about the future of his store.

He was speaking yesterday as his business the Spinning Wheel launched a 'smoke damage sale' – believed to be the first in the city since last month's blaze.

For the past 42 years Mr Curran has owned the Spinning Wheel, which sells products including curtains and bedding.

He said smoke from the Bank Buildings fire caused significant damage to stock in the store, which is located on Fountain Street beside the gutted Primark building.

Mr Curran, who has recently retired and has passed the business to his son Rory, said the fire caused the shop to close for two days – and footfall has dropped by 75 per cent.

He said the business was also continuing to suffer as a cordon had been placed across part of Fountain Street, blocking any through traffic, effectively making the end of the street a "cul-de-sac".

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The 70-year-old said the cordon was making life "tough" for traders in Fountain Street.

"The heart of the city is cut off, you can't get from one side to the other, it's the 'Berlin Wall'," he said.

"In my day, whenever I had a business in Belfast and bombs were going off, business continued immediately."

The grandfather-of-nine said that almost three weeks on from the fire, "not one" city councillor had called to the business to offer support.

"We are taking a hit," he said.

"We are informed that the cordon is up for four months. The damage is done, even if there is a walk-through, the negative news is out there and it's very hard in my experience to redress negative news.

"One of most disappointing things is that not one city councillor has been out to say hello to us or anything else. I saw the lord mayor being interviewed but nobody has called into the shop to offer support."

Mr Curran said not enough is being done to help traders.

"There's clarity in what's going on but nothing to help us," he said.

"We are outside the barrier and we get no help with rates. We have 12 members of staff. Nobody is buying in other shops, footfall in Belfast is down 54 per cent.

"I think they don't have any consideration for the effect it is having on shops outside the cordon. Nothing has happened."

Mr Curran said he remained concerned for the future of the family-owned business and its staff.

"I have never in all the times in business, been so concerned and worried," he said, but he added: "We are still open for business."

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