Belfast traders fear cost of flag protest

Published Sunday, 09 December 2012
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Shoppers returned to Belfast city centre on Sunday, one day after the Christmas Market shut because of a protest over the Union flag.

Belfast traders fear cost of flag protest
The Christmas Market at Belfast City Hall was closed during Saturday's protest. (© Pacemaker)

It is not yet known how much the demonstration cost traders in the city, on what was expected to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

A crowd of around 2,000 marched around Belfast City Hall to demonstrate their objection to a vote taken earlier in the week, which saw the number of days when the Union flag will be flown from the building reduced to 17.

While the gates at the Christmas Market were closed for a number of hours, some shops pulled down the shutters voluntarily during the mostly peaceful protest.

Joe Jordan from the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce said he believed the vote could have been postponed.

"We can't understand why the decision was taken to hold the debate about the Union flag in the run up to Christmas," he explained.

"It surely could have waited until February or March next year."

But Sinn Féin councillor Mairtin O'Muilleoir said council decisions cannot be delayed for the benefit of retailers.

"We can't run the calendar of democracy always in sync with the retail trade during the year.

"We think this is an issue that should have been sorted out before now. It happened this month. I don't think it's the greatest timing for anyone but we need to get on with it," he added.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
David in Belfast wrote (775 days ago):
I particularly liked the excuse about not being able to sync democracy with the retail trade. Christmas, last time I looked, happens pretty much bang on every year at the same time. As per usual it just seems to be a grudge match between DUP and Sinn Fein, stirring up trouble and leaving everyone else to pick up the pieces. God only knows what schemes and plans they're passing through at the moment with all the attention diverted to these protests.
Laura in Belfast wrote (776 days ago):
So a decision that was 18 months in the planning, that all parties knew was coming, was taken democratically in Belfast. With the support of the majority of the politician elected to represent the people of this city, but some people don't like it so they choose their course of action. Those opposed to the removal of the Union Flag have the right to protest, peaceful protests would not have had the negative impact on trade that has occurred, there would have been traffic disruption but the people of Belfast and beyond would not have been AFRAID to go into the city. What has has such a negative impact and caused tremendous fear among both the supporters of the flag's removal and those opposed to it's removal, is the violence, destruction and attempts of people's lives in Belfast and further a field. The blame for these acts lays solely with those involved in the acts. I have no doubt that there are those within the Unionist community who want to voice their opinions peacefully but their message has been lost in the actions of others. I for one do not support the flying of any flags at Belfast City Hall. As many Nationalists have in the past, I appealed to my representatives to have flags removed for the City Hall, I asked what I and others could do to help the process along. I was told by my representatives to be patient as an agreement on the issue was going to be difficult but that we had to find a middle ground. personally, I think the Alliance Party amendment to the proposal was sensible. To flag the Union Flag only on designated days brings the City Hall in Belfast into line with civic buildings in England who choose to fly their National Flag on Designated Days, not 365 days a year.
Intelligence in Belfast wrote (776 days ago):
Geoff in Ballynahinch: I totally agree. We all want jobs. We all want well paid jobs. We all want prosperity. I want a future for all kids. Why couldn't the council have delayed the vote till after Christmas? This will have an enormous impact on local economics. People won't shop. Shops will lose money. More closed stores on our high street during one of the worst recessions we have ever seen. More people out of work. People are leaving my work to get home early to avoid road blocks. Rush hour traffic is at a standstill. That is not good for international employers looking here to invest. I mean, would you invest here if you saw that? Would you? It is beyond arrogance. It is dinosaur politics. A throw back "Everything must drop for the local cultural sensitivities" load of absolute rubbish. I ask you: Did anyone seriously notice the flag at the top of the City Hall? I pass the City Hall every day at least twice and I never noticed it. Am I offended or happy it is taken away? I couldn’t care less. I want to get a promotion at work. I want to pay my mortgage. I want a career path. I want to give a future to my loved ones. I want to make them happy. That is what is important. Not flags! I mean wise up.
Royal Borough in Windsor wrote (776 days ago):
As you can see I work in a Royal Borough. The union flag only flies at Windsor Castle when the Queen is staying there. It only flies from the Town Hall on designated days as proposed in N.I. If the protesters are so "loyal" why not fall in with the rest of the U.K.?
garry in birmingham wrote (776 days ago):
wow, im holidaying in Sligo next year and i told my daughter we will go to the Titanic experience,,what is going on? why dont people understand democrasey, please tell me why i should endanger my daughter, spend money, mix with backward going people, I know the {protesters}dont want to here this but the majority of people in England are sick of, , are way or we will smash it up,, If you want to be voted away from England keep this up we are sick of it, Happy Christmas to all forward looking citizens.
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