Tuesday 25 October 2016

There's little room for sentiment in the new heart of Dublin

Does the recovery look like this?

The gleaming heart of Dublin being ripped out as the people who made it great are chucked out on the street?

Because Clerys was the retailing heart of Dublin city.

It made you feel safe.

I ran into Clerys when my mother died and I needed something to wear to the funeral.

I knew no-one would rush me or force me to buy something terrible. The black suit with the purple stripe is still hanging in my wardrobe.

I was planning to visit soon to buy some clothes or my daughter. I knew she'd be seen to properly in Clerys.

If you needed any service a word with one of the staff would see you sorted, something which can't be done in a shop when the staff are teenagers and the music is blaring so loud you can't think.

These are the kind of places my daughter shops on her own.


Let's face it, we all realise Clerys needed a big overhaul.

It could have made better use of its grandeur and location and its experienced staff to present something traditionally Dublin but right up to the minute.

But there were few in politics, local or national, fighting for institutions like Clerys.

Far too many big shopping centres have opened in the suburbs, promising 'new' jobs, which are really just jobs that have been taken out of the city.

The big public transport plans for Dublin which have just been unveiled should have been up and running years ago before we ran out of cash.

But it wasn't, and O'Connell Street was allowed degrade.

Now we are witnessing the spectacle of 130 Clerys workers - and as many as 330 staff from the concession outlets in the store being kicked out onto Main Street, Dublin, with as little money as can be allowed under law.

A miserable two weeks' pay for every long year worked in the store, capped at €600-a-week.

God alone knows how many other jobs will be lost if the concession-holders don't get their summer stock back immediately, along with the couple of million euro that they're owed from their trade in the past six weeks.

It seems the store had to close the minute it sold last Friday because it was losing so much money.

Pity that the owners didn't breathe a word of the imminent closure to the staff and concession-holders, not to mention customers with vouchers and deposits put down.

But that's commerce, isn't it? There's little room for sentiment in the new heart of Dublin, little respect for tradition and decency and long years of faithful service.

The new owners are property investors and hedge fund managers.

Natrium Ltd is 80pc owned by a London property investment and hedge fund business called Cheyne.

The Cheyne shareholding in Natrium is held in two off-shore companies, one in the Cayman Islands and one on the island of Guernsey. Island life seems to agree with hedge fund managers and property investors.

Natrium holds the jewel in the crown of Dublin retailing in their hands but they are not retailers.

They have the most magnificent building on Main Street, Dublin, in their portfolio but most of the shareholding is held on off-shore islands.


Now the store which began in 1853 as "the new or palatial mart" and became Clerys in 1893 is just one more counter in a big game of Monopoly.

The 460 workers who lived that tradition everyday until the axe fell last Friday are collateral damage.

These people must get a better answer than their minimum entitlements and the indignity that is a 'job programme'.

The people of Dublin must see an effort made to keep the heart of the city beating in that grand old building.

Clerys managed quality and splendour when people starved on the streets of Dublin.

They've traded through recession after recession, including the last one.

Don't tell me our city's economic recovery is a Clerys store that's boarded up and its workers protesting outside.

Because if that's what the recovery looks like I don't want it.

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