Prior to the turn of the Millennium, Brian Walker – local solicitor and chairman of the promotional group Portadown 2000 – was in the vanguard for the natural gas pipeline project between here and the Republic.
It was a visionary project, with Portadown 2000 being a vital component in persuading both parts of Ireland to cooperate in the scheme. Most major towns in the province, and thousands of business and domestic customers, benefitted with arrival of the cheaper fuel.
But Brian’s firm – Walker and McDonald of 2-6 Edward Street – hasn’t been one of them, despite the fact that a business premises at the far end of the street were connected at the start by firmus who are responsible for bringing the fuel north. Brian has made intermittent inquiries, but so far has drawn a blank. He still used oil-fired heating.
“I was part of a pressure group called ‘CANCO’ and we did put a lot of work into it, along with other hard-working people,” said Brian. “I am very disappointed that after all these years, they haven’t got round to fully serving Edward Street. The Portadown 2000 headquarters, which we created in William Street, not far away, are supplied.”
Ironically, the public realms scheme in Portadown town centre has blocked dozens of firms in the town from gas, according to David Fusco of firmus. “We haven’t been allowed to install pipes under the footpaths because of the specialised granite used,” he said. “Firms in High Street, Market Street, West Street and Mandeville Street are very keen, but we would find it impossible to re-instate the pavements.”
Armagh is the only other town in Northern Ireland affected, and Mr Fusco pointed out that Brian Walker firm is so close to High Street, the gas could have been supplied from there. “The companies at the far end of Edward Street are 200 yards away and they are supplied from Portmore Street,” he said.
Said Mr Walker, “It seems that Edward Street is jinxed. We have had to put up with the security barriers almost 20 years after the Troubles ended and the police station in the street has been down-graded to an inquiries office.
“It is supposed to be moving to the health centre, but there have been false alarms, with April the next date mentioned. I hope it happens at long last and Edward Street will start to live again,”
David Fusco commented, “When the barriers are removed I will make a point of visiting Brian Walker and discussing the possibilities.”