KILDARE OPINION: More people should start using Naas town

Paul O'Meara gives his views

Leinster Leader reporter

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KILDARE OPINION: More people should start using Naas town

File photo: Naas

Two more businesses closed in Naas recently.

The Five Lamps pub, which employs five people, including those on a part-time basis, did not reopen after the bank holiday weekend.

There are suggestions that the premises, leased from the developers of the shopping centre which was built behind it, could reopen.

But the proprietor, a well-liked man who has spent much of his life in the licenced trade, couldn’t be contacted because he is on holiday.

Soon afterwards, the Beloved shop, a charity retail enterprise on the other side of the street, also closed.

The Beloved shop is one of three operated by Focus Ireland as means of raising funds for its work in providing services for homeless people.

One swallow a summer does not make. And two more closures, even if they follow the closure of the upmarket Candied Walnut restaurant, an economic collapse does not make.

It’s undeniable, though that it’s a struggle for some to keep businesses going in Naas town centre.

At the same time, many houses are being built along with apartments, and market forces dictate that they’re selling at prices that are out of the reach of many young people growing up in Naas.

Rent prices in Naas are among the very highest in County Kildare.

There are some obvious explanations for all of the closures, starting with the attractions of the Monread shopping centre, anchored by the huge Tesco store. And the McDonald’s restaurant is among the busiest of any franchise in Ireland.

But the economic prosperity of Naas has not really improved when set against the growing population and the money that people are prepared, or feel compelled, to pay for residential property.

Contrast the buzz on the streets of Newbridge when compared with Naas most Saturdays.

There is a view, too, among people with some experience of retail business and retail development in the town that if the Naas shopping centre — which is bigger than Whitewater in Newbridge — opened tomorrow choc full of retail units, it would likely cause serious damage to the existing retailers.

So, some feel, this should be developed as an educational campus and perhaps a car park in the interim to provide parking spaces in the middle of the town.

There was a little good news last week with the release of unemployment fixtures.

Sen. Anthony Lawlor o f Johnstown, Fine Gael’s candidate in Kildare North come the next general election, said there has been a consistent decline in the “live register” figures for Co.Kildare and the numbers claiming unemployment payments last month was the lowest for just over a decade.

What the figures don’t tell us is how many are on minimum wage or less than minimum wage — and there are people working for less than the minimum entitlement.

Neither do they tell us about the security of employment or whether those not claiming benefit are working in the so-called gig economy (zero hours contracts) — with little security in terms of how many hours they’ll be required for or how long the job may last.

Dunnes Stores is said to be developing a new store at the former Superquinn plant.

An announcement was to have been made about this in September but this didn’t happen, even if work appears to be still continuing on the site at the heart of the town.

A Dunnes opening would be a welcome vote of confidence in the town and powerful antidote to the impact, visual and financial, of the many empty buildings.