Get off our backs, stop burning our vans and just let us get on with our jobs.
This was the message from staff at Paolo’s Pizza’s who joined together this morning in a demonstration at Free Derry Corner.
Local people stood with the staff who are furious that seven vans belonging to the chain of shops have been burned over the past number of years.
“Staff wanted to do this because they are angry, they are disheartened,” said manager director Paul McShane.
“Anyone who drives for us are now scared, they are terrified and don’t want to drive at any time when the area is tense.
“The staff wanted to speak out because their jobs are at risk, because obviously I need them to drive. If they don’t want to drive it means we can’t do a delivery service. “
Mr McShane revealed that the company has lost seven vans over the last years and their insurance has doubled.
“We’ve probably lost £40,000 in the last four years,” he said. “Even is you claim the insurance it doesn’t pay back what you paid out.”
He said he didn’t want to take the step of sending his delivery drivers out in plain vans or cars.
“It’s a shame we live in a society like this,” he said. “I could use cars but I use Paolo’s vans because we want to advertise our business like everyone else does, and they’re under no threat.
“I don’t understand why we are under threat, I feel we are just an easy target.”
The business which has been in Derry for 26 years has outlets in Waterloo Street, Foyleside, Whitehouse, Hatmore and a new shop just opened in Culmore.
“I haven’t got a clue why anyone would do this,” he said. “We’re not here to accuse anybody today, we just want peace to do our business.”
He said he was happy to see so many people supporting the staff today.
And he said they would carry on: “We have to carry on,” he said. “ We can’t let these things beat us.”
Peter McShane, one of the shop managers said it wasn’t good enough that hard working staff were getting their vans burned.
“We have no idea why this is happening,” he said. “There’s no reason why we should be targeted, we are a family business. Just leave us hard working innocent people alone.”
SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly who attended the protest said: “I strongly condemn any attack on vans belonging to Paolo’s Pizzas.
“It is important that Paul McShane and his staff know that the whole community stands behind them, and they have the support and solidarity of us all. Those responsible for these attacks have nothing to offer – and come from people who are simply proving that they can damage and destroy.
“Business people in Derry simply want to prosper and grow – and that is why we must strongly reject any such attack which would hold them back.”