Deputy Niamh Smyth (FF).

‘Shop local’ - urges Smyth

Cavan Monaghan TD Niamh Smyth is ebullient about how locals have embraced the opening of new businesses, and firmly believes the town can be “positive” about its future.

“Shop local is always extremely important, and I’ve always strongly believed in that ethos. For me the integrity of our main streets has been compromised over the years, not just in Bailieborough but in other towns as well. It’s been compromised by the [commercial development] of greenfield sites outside of the town core, where small independent retailers find themselves pitted against multinational brands... An uneven playing field has been created.”

Deputy Smyth remembers a time when town cores were full of “character”, when shop owners and their families often lived above the premises. That has changed. “There has to be a real emphasis, and I know government policy is very much centred on this, to bring people back living in our town centres,” she said.

Deputy Smyth welcomes recent “important” funding allocations for Bailieborough - €213,289 for Streetscape Enhancement under Town and Village Renewal in 2022 and €100,000 under the Town Centre First Plan in 2021.

The money will support projects that seek to tackle vacancy and dereliction by bringing landmark town centre buildings back to life, as well as improving streetscapes, amenities and parks, and funding heritage projects.

The ‘Town Centre First’ policy contains a range of actions to deliver social and economic revival in towns such as the provision of housing, and addressing vacancy rates and derelict buildings. Deputy Smyth praised the catch-all approach because she said, to tackle one issue solely, would be to ignore the overarching issues that cause some of the problems.

“We need to be multi-faceted in our approach, with lead from Government, and support at local level, the aim is to incentivise change. It’s part of a process. I’ve met so many young couples deterred from building a new house because of the costs associated. So maybe this is an opportunity to reimagine our main streets. If there’s one thing Covid did is it showed the value of local business. People turned to our local shops, and the same faces that have been there for years looked after them.”