The true cost of the weekly dissident bomb attacks and hoax alerts has been revealed by the owners of the city centre businesses affected.
The Richmond Centre alone lost over £100,000 in business last month due to evacuation of the centre on the day the Santander Bank was targeted. Other small independent business owners say they individually lost thousands.
Many traders say the dissident campaign will inevitably cost the city centre millions of pounds in lost revenue.
Some businesses in the city centre say they are in financial crisis due to the recent spate of bomb alerts. And they say the NIO or Department of Justice Northern Ireland cannot reimburse them for business lost due to bombs or alerts.
They say that with the strain on them due to the recession has been amplified a hundred-fold by the upsurge in dissident violence.
“The city centre is being strangled to death by the dissidents,” said one city centre trader, who wished to remain nameless for fear of being targeted.“We are local, Derry people. We employ Derry workers. Workers will lose their jobs, there’s no doubt about that. Businesses will close down because of this. Do these people want our city to die? Because that is what will happen.
“There are so many great things happening in this city. We are working so hard to stay afloat, to keep going, holding on. I’ve been in business for 50 years, throughout the Troubles. I’ve never known things to be so tough.”
“The bomb at Santander had a ripple effect, felt for days after. Aside from the worry over loss of life, an entire business day was lost, workers were sent home, fresh food was wasted. For days after the town was quiet as people were afraid to come in. I know of one shop which took in absolutely nothing last week. For the rest of us it was Thursday before things started to pick up again.
“We have been battered by the recession. All our overheads have gone sky high. We are literally hanging on by our fingernails. Bombs and alerts are destroying us.
“And the ironic thing is, these people who say they are Republicans are driving the people away from independent Derry-born businesses in the city and out to the big UK superstores outside. It doesn’t make sense.
“With every bomb alert they phone in they are destroying the future - not only for people who own the shops and their employees, but for their own families and children. Because this town will be nothing by the time they grow up. Is that what they want?”
Bobby Nicholson, the manager of the Richmond Centre his centre lost well over £1o0,000 due to last month’s bomb attack alone, but that the effect on the entire city centre of the constant bomb alerts would be in the millions.
“We were closed for the entire afternoon,” says Bobby.
“We lost in excess of £100,000. But that is nothing to what we could lose if this carries on in the city centre. Derry relies very much on tourism. The ripple effect of the alerts could be devastating. If the tourists don’t come then the city will lose millions.”
Derry MP Mark Durkan said that dissident attacks in Derry are not threatening some distant system, disturbing the establishment or challenging the state.
“Instead, they are doing real damage to a city centre that needs every trading hour it can get.
“It is local people who own, run or work in businesses who lose trade, product and wages as a result of such attacks and threats.
“The economic climate is challenging enough for businesses everywhere without shops and outlets here being harassed and handicapped by the commercial vandalism of the dissidents.
“Shop-owners and workers need to know that their loss and frustration is appreciated by the wider community whom they serve.
“We all share in the wider civic loss that comes from repeated disruptions which keep people out of the city centre and put others off coming to the city as either shoppers or tourists.
“Shutting down the centre of Derry will not open up any political paths for these groups. Harming Derry’s economy will not help Ireland.
“These attacks are victimising legitimate local businesses, threatening jobs, costing wages and doing Derry down.”