Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

'Piratical attacks on democracy from dissident republicans and loyalist protesters must be resisted'

The good ship Northern Ireland is setting sail for strong currents, leading to eventual success, according to the latest maritime economic forecasting. But the pirate numpties (stupid people for those not versed in Ulster Scots street-talk) are threatening its safe passage.

Yes, this week those who predict the tides of fortune and misfortune are saying there may be blue skies ahead for the economy; a fair wind after so long lingering in the doldrums, becalmed yet moving nowhere.

PwC in a fine piece of economic forecasting have said that Northern Ireland’s rate of knots was increasing at its fastest rate since encountering choppy waters in 2007.

Before a tot of rum be shared amongst the inhabitants of the ship, PwC has warned that the deckhands and other crew members may not feel the benefits of this, as their pay, while at sea, has not kept pace with the price of provisions ashore.

But, the situation may get a lot worse. Like an albatross strung around the Ancient Mariner in Coleridge’s epic poem, there be numpty pirates off the port and starboard bows. Both sets would see any ship of recovery sink rather than make safe landfall.

On one side we have the pirates of the dissident clan, who believe that bombs and murder can achieve something that they have as yet not declared – something muttered about the ship joining forces with another flotilla...

On the other side, there be the piratical clan of the red, white and blue, who believe their multi-coloured flag should be flown from every ship, especially in its home port.

With the maritime analogy now drawn out tortuously let’s sum things up.

PwC say that the economy is improving, but many will not feel the benefits as yet; dissident republicans used a proxy bomb to attack the centre of Belfast; and flag protesters are planning to bring the city to a virtual stop with a protest march on what should be one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

What can the bombers and marchers achieve? What is their goal in targeting Christmas?

Shoppers will drift away from Belfast city centre, and when the out-of-town retail centres or provincial shopping towns prove too popular will these also be targeted?

Retailers and business people have worked hard throughout the recession to stay open, stay competitive and provide a better experience for those that journey into the city – parts of which are beginning  to have that ‘café culture’ which is a retail nirvana. They have been integrating on and off-line sales to combat the challenge of internet shopping.

At the same time, the Northern Ireland Executive, despite its divisive political nature, has been trying to generate positive news stories and attract inward investment, and encourage local business.

If we are to emerge from the dark ages, if we are to mature as an economy and if we are to allow democracy and civil responsibility to take hold, then the piratical attacks from any side must be resisted, must be stopped and must be rejected.

That is not to say that any organisation should stop trying to achieve its aims – thus a democracy can develop; rather that such aims should be outlined through discourse not disorder, through debate not chaos.

On a final note, good luck to all the retailers and city centre businesses in helping us celebrate this festive season!

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