Boom-time in Republic as shoppers flood across the border
TENS of thousands of Northern Ireland shoppers are pouring over the border to take advantage of significantly lower prices caused by the weakening euro.
Hotels, shops and businesses operating close to the Republic's side of the border are reporting a currency-fuelled business boom on the back of the decision by the European Central Bank to pump billions of euro into the eurozone economy through quantitative easing. The move saw the euro drop further against sterling, giving consumers from Northern Ireland a longer-stretching pound in the south.
Tourism chiefs in the Republic are predicting that 2015 will be their best in years.
"We've already seen the positive effects and it is good news for us," said Paul Diver, owner of the Sandhouse Hotel in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal.
The hotelier hit the headlines two years ago when he bought the hotel at a distress auction having previously managed it for 20 years.
"We have already seen bookings for this year increase in the past days. We are seeing the double benefits of the promotion of the Wild Atlantic Way in a Tourism Ireland initiative in Britain and the increase in the value of sterling is now driving it even further," he added.
Mr Diver said he planned to employ 75 people this year - twice the number of two years ago.
"Everyone benefits," he said.
"It's great for the economy here and it will also see more people from the southern Irish market staying here instead of going to Northern Ireland and perhaps visiting there on day trips from a base in the south rather than staying overnight," he added.
In Dundalk, Co Louth, Paddy Malone from the local Chamber of Commerce said the town was "booming" again for the first time in years.
"A couple of years ago finding a northern-registered car in a car park in Dundalk was like finding hen's teeth," he said. "Now it's a completely different story.
"Added to that shoppers aren't going north anymore, they're staying at home."
In Letterkenny, Co Donegal, the Mount Errigal Hotel is holding its annual wedding fair tomorrow.
Most of the people there will be couples from Northern Ireland, who will come armed with sterling to pay for their big day.
"We've always been a hotel popular with couples from across the border but the number of inquiries increases every time sterling rises," said owner Terry McEniff. "We're booked out every weekend in January with 80% of that business from the north and that's completely unheard of in all my time here," he added.
The flow of trade into the Republic is a reversal of the cross-border boom enjoyed by border retailers in Northern Ireland around 2009.
An official Irish government report in 2008-9 estimated that the flow of cross-border trade was worth £370m annually to Northern Ireland as the euro traded strongly against the pound.
Towns like Newry and Londonderry became meccas for shoppers from the Republic.