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The town that has been 'hollowed out' by COVID and Brexit

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·4-min read
Aisling Johnston said Carlingford has been 'hollowed into a shell' by coronavirus and Brexit. (PA)
Aisling Johnston said Carlingford has been 'hollowed into a shell' by coronavirus and Brexit. (PA)

A picturesque border town in Ireland has been “hollowed into a shell” by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, a publican has said.

The tourist resort of Carlingford in Co Louth is normally packed with weekend visitors soaking up the dramatic mountain scenery, and stag and hen parties enjoying the nightlife.

But with just two bars remaining open, customers are scarce, and a cut in VAT on food and extra support for businesses in Tuesday’s Irish budget provided little cheer at the relatively deserted Taaffes Castle Bar.

Taaffes manager Aisling Johnston, 32, said: “Carlingford is such a busy tourist place, beautiful and with something for everyone with its nightlife and scenery.

“Right now it is just like a shell.”

Taaffes Castle Bar, Carlingford, Co Louth whose manger Aisling Johnston, Manager said the picturesque border town has been "hollowed into a shell" by coronavirus and Brexit.
Taaffes Castle Bar in Carlingford, Co Louth. Manager Aisling Johnston said the picturesque border town has been 'hollowed into a shell' by coronavirus and Brexit. (PA)
Aisling Johnston, Manager at Taaffes Castle Bar, Carlingford, Co Louth, the. picturesque border town, which has been "hollowed into a shell" by coronavirus and Brexit, the publican said.
Aisling Johnston, manager at Taaffes Castle Bar. (PA)

Staffing numbers on a Saturday have been cut from 11 to one, while food is no longer served because the pub cannot afford to pay staff.

It can only remain open because it has an outside area to serve drink.

From serving hundreds of thirsty customers, they are down to a maximum of 15 outdoors as the temperatures drop.

COVID-19 cases in Ireland have seen a sharp rise in recent weeks, with 808 new cases reported on Tuesday – nearly double what they were at the start of October.

The country tightened its lockdown restrictions one week ago, moving into Level 3 from Level 2. The highest category of lockdown is Level 5.

Meanwhile, the UK introduced its own tier system this week, with Liverpool being the first region to be placed in the highest category.

Watch: What is a no deal Brexit?

Northern Ireland is also set to impose a four-week circuit breaker lockdown from Friday – the first part of the UK to introduce such a measure.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has urged Boris Johnson to impose a two- to three-week lockdown across England, but such a move has so far been resisted by the government.

Ireland's new coalition government unveiled its first budget in Dublin on Tuesday, spending heavily in an attempt to combat the pandemic’s economic damage and the threat of a no-deal Brexit.

VAT on hospitality businesses has been cut from 13.5 to 9%, but on alcohol it remains at 23%.

McKevitts Hotel, The Village Hotel, Carlingford, Co Louth.
McKevitt's Village Hotel in Carlingford, Co Louth. (PA)

Taaffes’s manager said she was pleased to see the drink tax was not increased but said: “They have dished out too many blows to us already.”

The budget assumes there will be no trade deal between the EU and the UK, which could mean a massive blow to Ireland’s economy.

Johnston said a lot of her customers came from Northern Ireland.

Adrian McGreevy, marketing manager of Carlingford Adventure Centre, Co Louth who said the combination of Brexit and the coronavirus represented the perfect storm for businesses like his.
Adrian McGreevy, marketing manager of Carlingford Adventure Centre, said the combination of Brexit and the coronavirus made for a perfect storm for businesses like his. (PA)

“There is talk of the border counties going into another lockdown due to the higher cases in the North,” she said.

Adrian McGreevy, who runs Carlingford Adventure Centre, said the combination of Brexit and the virus represented a perfect storm for businesses like his.

He said: “Everything is just up in the air at the minute.

“It is hard to invest and push your business forward when you do not know what is coming down the line, not even down the line, in the next couple of months.”

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson listens during a coronavirus briefing in Downing Street, London, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)
Boris Johnson has scrapped the 15 October deadline date in Brexit negotiations with the EU. (AP)

He said efforts to boost staycationing had been pulled back because the authorities no longer wanted to encourage travel.

Boris Johnson has scrapped the 15 October deadline for Brexit negotiations, signalling that a deal with the EU may yet be possible in the coming weeks.

Downing Street is believed to be keen to wait for any positive signs from a crunch summit of European leaders in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

Watch: What are freeports?

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