Closure ‘symptomatic of under-investment’

SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack.
SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack.

The chair of Derry’s Business and Culture Committee has described the closure of Austins as being “symptomatic of continued under investment” in the region.

SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack was speaking as she chaired the March meeting on Tuesday just hours after it was confirmed that Austin’s Department Store in the Diamond will be shutting its doors for good.

Addressing the committee, Colr. Cusack said “the city was shocked by the devastating announcement”.

“I would like to express my great sadness to the staff the Hasson family in particular,” she said, adding that Austins has been through the years a major employer in the city centre, particularly with regards to young women.

“The customer care and the staff were a credit to this city.

She said that local MLAs have already flagged this in Stormont, and commented that the closure was “symptomatic of continued under investment in the north west, and reminds us we need to continue to fight for investment in our centres.

“We also need to make an effort to support our local businesses. Hopefully this magnificent building will be occupied in the near future,” Colr. Cusack added.

Meanwhile Eamonn McCann from People Before Profit: said the closure was “a tragedy for the workers and for the town”.

He said: “ It is a symptom of the continuing decline of Derry and the North West, which hasn’t been halted over the lifetime of the last Assembly.

“One of the main reasons that Austins has closed is that there is little money in the town, wages for the vast majority are too low to allow them buy anything but essentials. Public investment has to be part of the solution or we will see further closures of local businesses over the coming months and years.”