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“We’re chasing quite a few leads,” says Aisling Rogerson, a co-founder of Dublin Flea Market.

Earlier this month, five markets, including Dublin Flea, were told to leave by the Creedon Group, which owns the buildings on Newmarket that they’re in now and is planning some major changes.

So Fusion Sundays, Brocante, Pure Vintage Fair, Dublin Flea Market and Newmarket Collective are counting down. And 12 June is D-Day.

With less than a month to go, they have banded together as the Sunday Market Collective, and, armed with a business case, have gone on the hunt for a new space in the city.

Wake Up

One thing is clear, says Rogerson.

Finding a new space in Dublin to host the markets is “a lot tougher” than when Dublin Flea Market set up 10 years ago at Newmarket, she says.

They don’t see a future in Dublin 8, which “is getting very difficult”, she says.

As the search rolls on, Rogerson hopes Dublin City Council will help out, a hope shared by some members of the council’s arts committee.

Assistant Chief Executive Richard Shakespeare said somebody had asked if the council had suitable buildings to house the markets.

He asked the council’s chief valuer, he said, but was told that the council is looking for similar buildings for its own reasons, and there isn’t anything this side of the M50 that would suit.

The markets went in “in the full knowledge that at some point the market would rise and there would be construction and demolition”, said Shakespeare, at the meeting. “We have no obligation as a city council to look after them.”

Willie White, director of the Dublin Theatre Festival, who sits on the arts committee, said he understood that the council had no obligation to help relocate the businesses.

But the council needs to consider what type of city it wants, White says. “Otherwise we’re just going to look like a big high street and a very boring place to live.”

A Strategy for Markets

At the same meeting, independent Councillor Mannix Flynn suggested that the council look at Wolfe Tone Square, which is often empty and unused, as a possible place for the Newmarket traders.

Perhaps, they could put up a marquee there, Flynn said. “Wake up folks!” he said. “You simply can’t get away with this and you need to start stepping up to your obligations and your duties.”

Dublin City Council does have a Markets Action Plan, which sets out how it should nurture or develop markets in the city.

This plan notes aims in the city’s development plan – a document that the council has to refer to when planning the city – “to facilitate indoor and outdoor markets throughout the city and to promote the clustering of complementary uses that add character and vitality to an area”.

Some say the Markets Action Plan is little more than ideas, though. “There isn’t 100 percent detail behind it,” says Sinn Féin Councillor Greg Kelly.

Much of the markets-related debate at the council in recent months has been focused on the progress, or lack of progress, in developing the largely vacant fruit and veg market in Smithfield and the derelict Iveagh Markets on Francis Street.

In Smithfield, Dublin City Council has been negotiating with the few remaining traders. On Francis Street, developer Martin Keane – who had planned to redevelop the red-brick Iveagh Market – has agreed to allow the council to inspect the space. But its future remains unclear

The council is also reviewing the city’s casual trading bye-laws, which govern issues such as where markets can go, when they can open, and how many stalls they can have. (Draft by-laws would spell the end of “The Hill”, one of the city’s oldest markets.)

Once these by-laws are reviewed and agreed, the council’s Markets Action Plan should be pursued, says Labour Councillor Andrew Montague.

Calls for More Flexibility

In the meantime, others argue the council isn’t doing enough to protect and encourage existing market trading in the city, that it’s taking too narrow a view.

Dublin City Council is too focused on English Market-style arrangements, says independent Councillor Vincent Jackson, referring to the permanent covered market in Cork.

“But, I mean, only two weeks ago people in Ballyfermot were saying to me, ‘Why not have a market here every second Sunday throughout the summer months?” says Jackson.

Labour Councillor Rebecca Moynihan says the council needs to be more imaginative when thinking about markets.

There’s space in Weaver Park and Wolfe Tone Square, for example, she says. “When we’re reviewing the casual trading bye-laws, we have to look at having a more flexible system of weekend markets for people.”

Labour’s Montague says the success of markets is dependent on location, weather and footfall, and that they take time to get established.

“We’ve our market out here in Ballymun and I wouldn’t say it’s thriving, I’d say it’s surviving,” says Montague. He says the council should help protect established markets like those at Newmarket.

Moving Out

Rogerson of Dublin Flea Market says she understands the difficulties facing the council when it comes to finding the right space in the city. “They know what we’re doing. If they can help they will,” she says.

The new location for the members of the Sunday Market Collective will most likely be within the city centre, but also could be in Inchicore or East Wall. “We’re not going to go further out than that,” she says.

The Green Door Market on Newmarket Square has also been given a 12 June deadline to move on. According to Green Door co-owner Deirdre O’Sullivan, though, they are about to sign a lease on a new space in Bluebell.

Once the Sunday Market Collective finds a location, they plan to hold at least one of the five markets each Sunday, says Rogerson.

“We’re optimistic,” she says. “I think, worst case scenario, there won’t be a market in June but we’ll have found somewhere by July.”

Cónal Thomas

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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