While we are all emerging out of the first part of the Covid-19 crisis, I'm concerned that Newry is going to be left behind, with progressive plans being implemented elsewhere, and that when the dust settles, absolutely nothing will have changed.

I really don't want to get back to 'normal'. Normal wasn't actually that wonderful when you delve into it a little.

Always rushing, consume, consume, consume and throw away; road's before people, no park, shopping many people's only exercise, no will to capitalise on our fantastic canal, nightlife dying on its feet.

We need people in power with big ideas for Newry City and the willingness of everyone to embrace or at least willing to try change.

Nichola Mallon, Minister for Department For Infrastructure promised when she appointed her new Walking and Cycling champion “I want to increase the space available for people who want to walk and cycle by extending pavements, pedestrianising streets and introducing pop up cycle lanes." - And guess what! Almost two months later, not one thing has changed in Newry City. A month ago the minister said the next phase would see a roll out in Derry and Newry. Well Derry has seen changes but Newry still waits... and waits!

A statement from DFI to this week said regarding facilitating active travel options locally. "it is hoped that this can be done in the coming weeks.”

If its not Broke

As one person said on our Facebook page suggestion of having one day car free in Newry City "If it's not broke don't fix it" but that's the exact problem, It actually is broke though many don't seem to be able to see that. Just look at Hill Street. Like streets in many other towns it hasn't been thriving for years, so obviously doing the same old thing isn't working. It's been suggested for years there needs to be a culture cultivated of 'living above the shop' and Council seem to agree but yet nothing has been done, and yes, new pavement cafe/ bar provision could also help to return life. Of course that might need an element of lost car park spaces.

We still haven't enough green space to breathe in. Our new park at the Albert Basin is still a good bit away. Nightlife has been on the decline before Covid, Newry's bars have found recent years challenging, Nightclub's have gone. A difficulty for Newry bars compared to those in other locations is the distance between them all. Like shoe shops the best place to have a bar is beside another bar. What about a mini 'Temple Bar' like street purposely re-jigged to be a centre for bars, restaurants and cafes with a level of pedestrianisation. Existing bars in other parts of town could have first refusal of units.

As for cycling and to a lesser extent walking, Newry is NOT a safe place. Why has this not been changed already? As I cycle up Canal Street I've two options, cycle on the road where irate drivers rush to get past leaving little or no space or I cycle on the footpath and pedestrians complain. Would you send your children to school, or down the street to the shops on their bikes and feel that they were safe? Well you SHOULD be able to!

The Facebook post mentioned above, that just dared to suggest that one day in the 'foreseeable future' we might have a day when walkers and cyclists could claim their city was generally laughed out of court "All the people with mobility problems will have to stay out of Newry that day" and "daft idea" or "Lads use your heads" and "There's hardly any parking as it is" were just some of the replies.

Kyiv closes of its main thoroughfare for people to wander around. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Kyiv closes of its main thoroughfare for people to wander around. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

This regardless of the fact that Newry has much more parking than green space and indeed has probably more parking than any comparable sized development in the world.

I look forward to having our car free day soon, perhaps the full length of Monaghan Street or the full length of Hill Street.

When we were in Kyiv in March, a city of three million they had closed off their main thoroughfare to traffic on a Sunday evening. Children were able to run around with their toys and sit on the road while grown ups stood and chatted or had a coffee but hey it couldn't happen in Newry!

*Inspired by Jennifer O'Connell's 'Re-imagining Ireland's Cities' article in the Weekend Irish Times.

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