Businesses have their say on major power outage

Disruption was caused by the electricity issues on Saturday.

Four thousand customers were left without power across Cavan at the weekend, with businesses forced to close on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

ESB Networks has confirmed “a high voltage system fault” saw people across Killeshandra, Ballyconnell, Belturbet and Cavan town affected.

In all, around 4,000 customers were left without electricity for over an hour on Saturday afternoon.

Businesses across the county town were forced to turn away customers on one of the busiest days of the year due to a major power outage. Shops and other businesses were left with no choice as lights, tills and security systems could not operate.

Paddy Fitzhenry, who operates Candlelight Books on Main Street together with his wife Jessica, says he observed a “notable” drop off in footfall in the immediate period after the blackout ended.

However, by late afternoon, as word got out that the lights were back in shop windows, Christmas shoppers and those simply looking to soak up some festive cheer quickly returned to the centre of town.

“It went off around 12, for 20 minutes or so, and then the power came back for five minutes, before going back off again for about 40 minutes.”

Paddy says it was “surreal” to stand at his shop front in the run up to Christmas week and see shop owners “shoo” customers out the door and back onto the street.

For a new business that only opened its doors this year, Paddy and others like Candlelight Books had been looking forward to the weekend for the boon it might bring.

“By far the busiest day I'd seen this year, and then that happens. After a while standing around and waiting for the lights to come back on, which they didn't, a lot of people then just got in their cars and left.”

It took an “hour to two” more after the power returned for business to pick back up again. Even then, not all services had returned. There were reports of card machine problems across the town for a time afterwards, and Paddy says: “We needed Saturday to be good, and it was good, but [the blackout] definitely took the shine off things a little bit.”

However, not all businesses were so severely affected. Eddie Coleman, proprietor of Cavan Gifts, said concerns for the safety of his customers led him to close his doors until the supply was restored: “We were off for about an hour, maybe more. I’d be afraid of somebody falling in the shop.”

While the fault hit his footfall for a time on Saturday, Eddie wasn't badly hit in what has proven to be a very busy pre-Christmas season:

“It didn’t really impact too much. We were busy up to it. Maybe some people went home when the power went off but it was still a busy day. If it had carried on for longer, that would have been a different story but, because it was only for the hour, it wasn’t too bad at all.”

While some businesses remained open for cash only sales, the lack of power meant ATMs could not operate, further impacting sales.

Local gardaí posted on social media that they were aware of the issue, with large numbers of house and business alarms going off across the county due to the lack of power.

Gardaí said they were working with ESB Networks to rectify the problem.

In a statement to this newspaper, the utility said its crews responded immediately “to isolate and repair the fault”. It says power was restored to all customers within an hour of the fault occurring.

It has issued an apology to the people and businesses affected “for the obvious disruption to family and commercial life in the area”.