OPINION: Please, let’s all remember Dundalk town centre when this passes
The devastating economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has touched every person in this country in some form or another.
Some, of course, have been hit worse than others. Those underpaid and living closer to the minimum wage have borne the brunt of the financial peril most.
As it ever seems to be in our society, unfortunately. One hope, but it is merely a hope, that we can reorder our mindset in this regard for the future. That we can create a fairer society in which those hanging on at the very edge can be brought closer towards the safer ground we should all be entitled to share.
It must quickly be said though, that financial worries are nothing compared to the unrelenting pain and grief heaped upon the families of loved ones who have died as a result of this terrible virus.
Yet, people have lost livelihoods and families are struggling to figure out what happens next. The reach of this worry is broad and constant right now. Businesses in our town centres are no different.
Already struggling to exist in an increasingly e-commerced world, our town centre has taken a tremendous bashing in the past two months. With many businesses shuttered and mothballed, with no source of cash flow evident, they are comatose right now.
Beloved stores, stores that have been in business for decades, stores that we remember fondly from our childhoods, may not survive this.
The boarded-up facades along Clanbrassil Street, Park Street, et al. could, in a worst case scenario, become a more permanent fixture and a stark reminder of the losses sustained due to the fallout from Covid-19.
Since the lockdown fell upon us, more and more people have, understandably, resorted to online shopping. The figures are there to back this up. Shoppers of all ages have turned to e-commerce like never before. Whether they return to shop again in our ‘bricks and mortar’ establishments in the coming months, is a worrying prospect to ponder over.
That Covid-19 seems to affect the older members of our society more is another cruel twist as regards our town centres. They are the ones more likely to shop local and shop traditional. If, as it looks increasingly likely, our older people must remain either cocooned or limit their exposure in social situations, for months, if not years until a vaccine is found, the short term future for Dundalk town centre, and others, is bleak.
If ever there was a time to be ready for a call to action it is now.
Those of us lucky enough to still be gainfully employed, to still be able to keep our heads above water financially and who are healthy enough, need to take heed.
It is both naive and foolhardy to believe that the greater reach of online shopping can be stemmed, or that we will turn our backs on it eventually, but if we all consider buying something locally on a regular basis, it can make a huge difference.
You are helping those same people struggling financially - who have been out of work for weeks now - with their future employment. You are also giving the businesses they work for a fighting chance to make it through.
All this, of course, is predicated on every person, right now, following the medical and health advice of the Government and the experts. We need to “hold firm” as the slogan goes. We need to stay the course. We need to continue to listen to these informed people.
Covid-19 has not gone away, you know. Leo Varadkar may have said it has been suppressed in the community, but, like kindling on a scorched day, all it takes is one rogue match to reignite the horror of a second, more devastating wave.