Northern Ireland news

Donegal border towns gear up for new mini-lockdown

The Squealing Pig on the Derry Donegal border was just "getting back to normal" when the new restrictions were announced.
Seamus McKinney

AFTERNOON drinkers in a popular bar on the Derry/Donegal border were just “getting back to normal” when the new level-3 Covid-19 restrictions hit.

The Squealing Pig on the Main Street in Muff opened on Monday after the Irish government lifted restrictions on 'wet bars' opening after a six months’ lockdown.

Barman Patrick Doherty said people had been looking forward to “some sort of normality” in the border town but that had changed following the new mini lockdown.

“When we opened [on Monday] the regulars came back fairly quickly but everyone’s down today,” Mr Doherty said.

The new restrictions mean people from the north and the Republic have been asked to restrict all travel across the NI-Donegal border unless necessary.

Employers in both jurisdictions have been asked to try and facilitate employees working from home.

The measures will be in place for three weeks until October 16.

Anticipation of the midnight deadline was evident in Muff, which is essentially a satellite town for Derry. Most people either work or shop in the city which is just five miles up the road.

There was an evident increase in traffic particularly northern motorists filling up with cheaper fuel at the town’s many petrol and diesel stations.

While Gardaí said yesterday there were no plans to re-introduce checkpoints this time, petrol stations in Muff, Bridgend, Killea and Lifford all reported busier traffic.

John Donaghy of Donaghy’s Filling Station said staff had been “run off their feet" all day yesterday with an influx of northern motorists.

“There’s no doubt people are panic buying and there’s really no need to this time. Friday is always busy but we’ve been really run off our feet today. The whole village has been busy with people preparing for the restrictions. The restaurants that re-opened are going back to takeaway only and people are stocking up,” he said.

While bars can remain open under the new regulations, they must only have 15 customers and must serve them outside. Many business owners said the restrictions were unworkable. Hugh Farren of Farren’s Bar in Malin Head said the regulations were not practical.

“Donegal weather is not really for outdoors. We have some great days up here but some bad days as well,” he said.

In Rossnowlagh, Emily Browne of the Smuggler’s Creek, said remaining open was not an option. The Donegal businesswoman said she intended closing, most likely until next spring.

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