It’s hard enough trying to run a business in a recession, but some of the traders on Rose Inn Street say they are having to deal with intimidation and crime too.
One trader spoke of people coming in groups of three or four and intimidating shop keepers and customers, particularly around 5 or 6pm and even in the middle of the day.
Another said that he has been physically assaulted and that his items in his shop had been smashed up. Things have got so bad, he said, that he is thinking of leaving Kilkenny at the end of this year despite being here for decades.
Some of the incidents have been thefts, but others have been outright vandalism, he said.
Another instance saw a man go into an outlet on the street, jump onto the counter and yell, “Open the *&^% till.”
“They just want to rob and break things,” he said. “That is what we are putting up with every day.”
Pointing to the stabbing of a man on the street in recent months, he said: “There is no law in Kilkenny.”
Trader Brian Martin of Kilkenny Craft said he was having trouble as well, in his case a group of teenagers who have been regularly targeting his premises.
Gardaí suggested to him that he should keep a list of incidents, and from the second week in January until the start of February he had 22 complaints on the list.
Things had quietened down after such issues were raised at a public meeting of the Borough Council’s joint policing committee two weeks ago but then started again last week, he said.
In the meaintime, he has installed a security camera in the shop.
And while some traders are frustrated that there haven’t been more arrests, Mr Martin said “the police do try to help out” and that he has sympathy for what the gardaí have to contend with on a Saturday night, particularly on John Street.
“They do a fantastic job, and it happens every Saturday night,” he said. “There is a war zone on John Street – and that is allowed to continue.”
The bottom line, he said, is that “I have a right to make a living and trade here, and I don’t need this.”
“All I really want is for 10 concerned adults in Kilkenny stand up to these people,” he said. “The lawful people going about their business are not being looked after.”
Another trader said, however, that while there had been a few incidents, it was more important to get on with business instead of sending out a negative message about the street. “I have had a few incidents but I don’t feel under seige,” the trader said. “It’s not that I am okay with that, but Kilkenny has to put its best foot forward.”
Butterslip priorietor Anne Barber likewise said it was more important to focus on the positive things that are happening in the area, including an up-coming initiative for Kieran Street.
The launch of Kieran Street as a “project street,” in conjunction with Keep Kilkenny Beautiful and Kilkenny Borough Council, including Mayor David Fitzgerald, will see the street “spruced up,” touching up paint where needed, removing any litter and improving access.
The idea, Ms Barber said, is to “help it reach its potential.”
“It’s a beautiful pedestrianised street and for the main part it’s independent shops and businesses, which is unusual in this day and age,” she said. A group of students from IT Carlow are also working on a project using social media to promote the street, she said.