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Length of lockdown creating ‘huge problems’

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ESSENTIAL SERVICE  Kilcoyne and Scahill Motors in Castlebar has remained open but Ronan Kilcoyne says things are quieter than usual.


Oisín McGovern

After schools were ordered to close on March 12 last year, many foresaw the full shutdown that was to come a few weeks later. Kilcoyne and Scahill Motors in Castlebar was one of many businesses that read the room and decided to fully close a few days before the first lockdown was announced.
Twelve months on, businesses that remain open are still trying to read the room as the pandemic continues to dominate our lives.
Ronan Kilcoyne, who runs Kilcoyne and Scahill Motors with Donal Scahill, says the Government does not fully realise the collateral damage being cause by lockdown.
“Every person you meet is sick to the back teeth of this [lockdown],” Ronan tells The Mayo News. “They’re [Government] creating huge problems down the road, and I don’t believe they fully realise the extent of the problems they’re creating.”
Established in 2009, Kilcoyne and Scahill Motors operate a used-car dealership and garage from their new Castlebar premises, which opened two years ago. While they were closed for two months under the severe spring lockdown of 2020, they have remained open throughout both Level 5 shutdowns.
Although they have kept a steady trade going, Ronan insists that it will be very difficult for many businesses to survive being shut for so long.
“The biggest hindrance, and I think it’s true for all businesses, is that the people making the decisions have no understanding of a business,” he says. “I understand public health is paramount. You don’t want anyone to get sick belonging to you, or someone you don’t know, you don’t want anyone to die. But I think there’s a complete and utter disregard for any business or any businessperson in this country at the minute.
“They’re just banking on this vaccine, and that the vaccines is going to fix everything. There are businesses that are never going to open again because of the length this lockdown… If we open up at the start of June, we’ll be closed for five months, if you skip a month we will have been closed for six months… They haven’t a clue if they expect businesses to be able to survive that.”
He continues: “We’re lucky with the industry we’re in, there’s a certain amount of business going on, we’ll be fine, we’ll have a good business after this, and we’ll be able to tick along. They don’t realise what they’re doing to businesses and they don’t realise what they’re doing to people’s mental health.”
While Kilcoyne and Scahill’s remain open as an essential service, things are quieter than usual. For all the talk of the roads getting busier, cars still aren’t accumulating their usual mileage, meaning there is less maintenance work for many garages.
Their sales department is closed to the public under Level 5 restrictions, meaning cars can only be viewed online. Ronan says this is less than ideal for customers who aren’t as au fait with modern technology.
Brexit has also complicated matters for many garages, with parts that used to arrive within 24 hours now sometimes taking five or six days to be delivered. Likewise, importing cars from the UK has become more problematic.
While Ronan says business will pick up once the pandemic has passed, he firmly believes that the economic implications of Covid and Brexit have yet to be understood.
“According to the news, there’s more savings than there ever was in the country. You’d be hoping that every business will get a spin off that when they open,” he says.  
“One thing that’s not being talked about… the cost of living will have gone up dramatically because of Brexit and Covid.
“We see it with things even as simple as engine oils, they’re starting to climb up and get more expensive. It’s only a fraction of normal demand for everything because of the lockdown, but when things open up and demand increases there’s going to be huge problems.”
“There’s a lot of problems developing, not just in our industry, under the guise of Covid, that people won’t realise until this passes.”