Unionists put brakes on dual currency parking meters

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Unionists have put the brakes on plans to explore if parking meters here may accept Euro coins.

A top committee on Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Council had urged officials to probe if euro coins could be used on local meters to aid shoppers from across the border.

However despite being proposed by the economic regeneration committee and backed by the SDLP and Sinn Fein, Unionists united to quash the plans.

Angry exchanges led to allegations of bigotry and sectarianism as the pro and antiEuro parking meter councillors traded insults.

Sinn Fein Councillor Keith Haughian, Vice Chair of the ERC, said it sent out the message that southern shoppers weren’t welcome.

“Last month Cllr Mark Baxter (DUP) was bragging that Brexit was helping the businesses in the north by enticing shoppers from the south.

“I think this is a very negative move by unionists and a poor reflection of their political maturity.”

Armagh SDLP Cllr Thomas O’Hanlon vented his fury saying he was ‘astonished at the narrowmindedness’

“All I asked was that it be investigated and costed. As a Councillor I can only make a decision when I am presented with the facts, costs and implications of any decision but to throw out a request to only look at the issue is unbelievable.

“I was prompted in this request when I approached by a man in Armagh who was shopping in the city, he was from Monaghan. He was in the city to take advantage of the strong Euro, when he went to pay for his parking he discovered that he had no sterling and the machine didn’t accept Euro. He went into a shop, which accepted Euro, he got change and by the time he got back to the car he had received a £90 fine for failing to pay and display. This left a very sour taste in the man’s mouth.

“It was only last month that some Unionist Councillors were boasting that the carparks were full of cars with southern number-plates and now they’re sending out a message that your Euro is not welcome in our area.

“This small mindedness is petty and pathetic. It already happens in Newry, Mourne and Down so it’s nothing new, it’s not rocket science. It’s was the petty politics of the past at its worst and does nothing to support some of the struggling businesses across our council area.

However DUP Cllr Darryn Causby dismissed the criticisms saying that he is unable to use sterling coins when travelling through toll booths or in parking meters across the border.

Cllr Causby said it would be pointless to have officers investigate the matter as it would clearly cost X amount of pounds to erect meters which accepted euro.

“Why should we spend money and waste officers time on such a trivial matter,” he said.

“Besides there is a facility on the parking meters to pay online or via an app so the provision to pay via euro is already in place. This would have been a nonsense exercise,” he said.

Ulster Unionist Glenn Barr who vehemently opposed the euro-accepting machines said: “When you go to other countries, you accept the currency when you go there. I was coming out of Dublin and I ended up going through the tunnel by-pass. I had no Euros on me and had to pay almost double the price just to get through there.

“If you’re going to Dublin you have to pay Euros into toll booths, so I don’t see why people coming from the Republic of Ireland or elsewhere don’t pay in sterling. It’s thesame with the Euro tunnels when you come into the UK so why should it be different here?”

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said it has parking metres within the district which also accept euro coins.