The Heelers Diaries

the fantasy world of ireland's greatest living poet

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Location: Kilcullen (Phone 087 7790766), County Kildare, Ireland

Saturday, May 16, 2015


(The following article has been rejected for publication by the Bridge magazine apparently on the grounds that a Rah man might be somebody's mother.)

(James Healy asks the question and answers it.)

Why are businesses on Main Street finding it so difficult to trade in the present time? The question arose during a recent discussion at the village forum in the Tearman Cafe, and it seemed the almighty recession was to be held responsible for everything.
Ah yes, the recession.
The recession is to blame for all things.
To me this sort of fatalism is tantamount to saying: "Things are the way they are and there's nothing anyone can do to change them." Incidentally, there was also a significant body of opinion in the cafe inclined to lay the blame for closed Kilcullen businesses on nearby hyper market style retailers in the towns of Naas and Newbridge.
I've never really accepted the notion that the large scale out of town supermarkets are driving small business people to the wall. I tend to believe that the rising tide of employment and choice presented by such outlets should be to the benefit of all. With more people coming in to the region to shop at the hyper marts, there should be more overspill of trade onto Main Street.
Something else is killing our businesses.
Five something else's actually.
First the sons and daughters of small traders on Main Street often do not wish to carry on the family business. The aspirations of the younger generation mean that we lose the expertise the family may have built up over a generation as Junior and Junioress seek life's pot of gold through the subsidised dating academies that pass for universities in Ireland. Business after business on Main Street has closed simply because the young uns could not see themselves as shopkeepers.
Secondly the thug element in Kilcullen are now a significant factor in the life of anyone who dares to set up their own business. By the thug element I mean the usual suspects who have terrorised the town for the past forty years. They too are key players in closing down our traders. And yet still people continue to look the other way and murmur: "Oh but they never had a chance." The truth is they've had forty years of a chance. Truly we are a beaten people.
Thirdly, aside from the thug element, more organised crime groupings are now present in Kilcullen, and extort money from traders here. No one wants these characters in their lives. Traders walk away because of the regular threats, robberies and attempts at extortion. Note that I treat the organised crime groupings as separate from the thug element although both are interactive with each other. Within the past decade we can see clear evidence of organised crime shutting down businesses in our town. A few years ago, one trader in Kilcullen beat off an attack by a knife wielding raider on his premises. The gang brought in three hit men from Dublin to deliberately let the trader catch them in the act of breaking into his shop. They stabbed the trader as planned and weren't too worried whether he lived or died. He sold up and left Kilcullen. Another respected Kilcullen resident was forced to move out of town after repeated break-ins by supposed traveller gangs. There have been more of these cases but they don't get reported.
Fourthly, any trader who wishes to run his own business on Main Street, must face up to the fact that our government acts as if it is trying to drive him out of business. Taxation is high. The trader is forced to collect tax on behalf of the government in the form of VAT. The trader can be casually criminalised by the revenue service if there is an anomaly in his tax returns. Again this sort of draconian taxation culture plays a key role in shuttering our Main Street.

Fifthly, rents are too high and it is difficult for a would be trader to obtain ownership of a street front property. We should put families who are keen to work in all these properties. The resurgent landlordism of the present era is not worth the shutters it's printed on.
Okay folks. Those are my opinions. After all of those factors are considered, we might begin to look at laying some responsibility for our shuttered Main Street at the door of the out of town supermarkets. But honestly, if we found people who wanted to work on Main Street, and let them do so, and stopped our government from mugging them continuously for tax, and saw off the thugs, and shut down the mafias, really, the competition from large scale retailers would no longer be a problem.
Our Main Street would light up with prosperity, jobs and fulfilled lives. I think it's worth doing.


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