Northern Ireland news

Business owner `relieved' to reopen shop 12 days after Cathedral Quarter fire

Businessman Donagh McGoveran, who owns the Centra on Donegall Street in the Cathedral Quarter, said there is a sense of "relief" that he has been allowed to reopen 12 days after a fire in the building next door meant he had to close. Picture Mal McCann
Marie Louise McConville

A BUSINESSMAN who told how the closure of his shop due to a fire in Cathedral Quarter meant he was losing £10,000 a day has said he is "relieved" to finally reopen.

Donagh McGoveran, who owns Centra on Donegall Street, was unable to trade since the fire on October 3.

While his business was not damaged, it was located within the cordon which was erected afterwards.

More than 50 firefighters tackled the blaze as it tore through the listed Old Cathedral Building on Donegall Street. Built more than a century ago, the site now hosts small creative businesses and studios. A teenager has been remanded into custody on a charge of arson with intent to endanger life.

Nineteen days on from the fire, a cordon remains around the listed building, restricting access for several business owners, pedestrians and traffic.

Mr McGoveran yesterday said there was a sense of "relief" that he had been allowed to reopen when the cordon was moved.

"The fire was devastating for us and for the tenants next door, so it's a relief," he said.

"A lot of our stuff is fresh so we had a huge amount of food that had to be disposed off. We were lucky, some of our sandwiches stuff were still in date. We were able to give it to the local food bank."

However, Mr McGoveran said he had been left "hugely" disappointed by the response from Belfast City Council.

He said many businesses had seen their trade "decimated" but there was "no directional signage" to help the public and tourists find their way around.

"We pay our rates. We think we should be entitled to somebody coming here in person from Belfast City Council to talk to us, talk to me, talk to my staff, to reassure they are on it," he said.

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said it was "actively looking at how access around the cordon can be improved".

"We continue to work with the businesses and artists impacted by the fire to offer practical help around insurance and legal issues, as well as helping businesses find alternative premises," he said.

Northern Ireland news