Primark fire is a devastating blow to the heart of Belfast
The sight of the Primark store ablaze in the heart of Belfast yesterday was, as Alderman Jim Rodgers says, right, almost hard to believe.
The building has been a fixture in the heart of Belfast for almost 250 years.
It began as a bank and was once a bishop’s residence but for as long as anyone alive can remember it has been a store.
And latterly it has been the location for the hugely popular Primark.
The shop does so well that it was on the verge of a huge and expensive extension.
This sudden fire would be a devastating blow for Northern Ireland, for Belfast, for consumers and most of all for the people who work at Primark at any time.
That it has happened just before the major new opening is a dreadful quirk of fate, in terms of the extra employment that was due to be taken on there, and also in terms of the destruction of something that had only just been created.
It is hard now to see how this handsome building, that has survived so many other traumatic times in Belfast, will be restored after such devastating damage.
The most important thing is that no-one died or was injured in this massive blaze.
This is thanks of course to fire officers, without whom any society would be in trouble — they are prepared to put their lives on the line to protect life and property, and a platoon of them was sent quickly to the scene yesterday.
The extent to which the flames in Primark were raging well into yesterday afternoon was a stark reminder of the perils of fire.
It also conjured up memories of the horrific Grenfell blaze last year.
Now we all will be hoping that Primark will find a location to continue its thriving business, which is so important to the centre of our capital city in these generally troubled and uncertain times for retailers.