Having just filled up her car with shopping bags in Newry, Drogheda mother-of-three Geraldine Rooney enthuses about the savings she has achieved by making the short trip up north.
The eldest of her three boys has special needs, and her truck-driver husband has seen his work hours cut back since February of last year.
As a result, she notes with a somewhat ironic smile, it would be easier to be a "patriotic" shopper if it were not for the recession and the prospect of further cuts to social security in the forthcoming budget.
"My husband is on a three-day week and I'm a full-time carer to my eldest son. My allowance is going to be cut further in the budget, by the same minister who is telling me to stay and to be 'patriotic'," she says. "When it gets cheaper than up here, then I will stay south. But until then, I'm going to come up here."
Accompanied on last week's trip by her mother, Christine Mallon (62), Rooney says she has also started doing her Christmas-present shopping up north in recent times.
"I have three kids and the savings I have made are brilliant. I'm doing it again this year. I reckon I made €300 to €400 savings last year. I know exactly what the prices are here for the things I want, and there is no comparison," she says. "If they matched the prices up here, especially at the moment, I think a lot of people would stay."
She cites an example of a popular Playstation 3 console with a string of accessories, which she says she has priced at around €100 cheaper than its equivalent in Drogheda.
Herself and her mother travel north from Drogheda once every six weeks or so, and mainly shop in the Iceland store next to Dunnes in Newry.
"I would love to be able to say to you here today that I do all my shopping south of the border," Christine says. "But the stores there are not doing anything to reduce prices. I think after last year a lot of the prices went back up again. I would love the money to stay south of the border."
For her part, Christine stocks up on toiletries, household cleaning materials, and bulk food purchases, which she says are "much cheaper" in Northern Ireland than south of the border.
A roughly 30-minute trip last week shaved between €25 and €30 from her shopping bill.
"I'm after spending around £60. I would say it would have cost me at least €90 (£76) or more in Drogheda," she says. "I do feel there are big savings. I wouldn't travel that far if there weren't. I know what the minister said about being patriotic. But particularly when you have a family, if it is cheaper to come here, why wouldn't you? I think the retailers should be doing more."
Cross-border shopping seems set to be an issue once again this year in the run-up to Christmas.
The Department of Finance estimated that cross-border shopping cost as much as €700m to the exchequer in 2009. A subsequent CSO report published last December showed that 16% of households in the Republic had made a shopping trip to Northern Ireland over a 12-month period.
In an RTé radio interview last year, finance minister Brian Lenihan said he had "never suggested it is unpatriotic to shop in Northern Ireland. What I have said is that you don't support the state when you buy in Northern Ireland, you don't contribute to the taxation base of the state and you leave the state and the minister of finance with no option but to increase income tax to pay for the services that everyone wants in their own locality."
There have been hopes that recently reduced Vat and excise rates on alcohol here – and price reductions by the likes of Tesco and other retailers south of the border – would provide less incentive for people to shop outside the state.
Yet around 38,000 retail jobs have been lost in the past two years in the Republic, with some estimates suggesting that 5,000 of these redundancies were attributable to the impact of cross-border shopping.
Aoife and Francis Rogers were also busy loading up their people carrier in Newry with purchases last week. Accompanied by two of their five children – Jamie (2) and Kayla (12 months) – the couple cross the border from their home in Dundalk every month.
"It's mostly for food, and clothes maybe as well. We make between €100 and €200 in savings from it. We spent £200 today and got two trolleys full of stuff. In Tesco Dundalk, I went there last week and spent €150 and I came out with only half a trolley load," Aoife says. "Every month we do the 'stock up' here and if there are a few bits we need in the meantime in Dundalk – nappies for example – we buy them there."
The couple have been making the trip for nearly 10 years.
Aoife shakes her head firmly when asked if she agrees with the government's calls for people to resist the temptation to cross the border when shopping.
"We're just trying to save what we can," she responds.
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