Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 August 2015

Belfast flag violence: Christmas market stallholders hit by heavy trade loss may not return

By Anna Maguire

Published 11/12/2012

Shoppers in the Continental Market on Sunday
Shoppers in the Continental Market on Sunday
The scene on the Upper Newtownards Road beside Alliance Party east Belfast MP Naomi Long's office where a PSNI patrol car (left) was petrol bomb reportedly with officers sitting inside
Loyalists took to the streets again in protest against a decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall
Officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
PSNI officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
Officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
PSNI officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
PSNI officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast near Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
The scene on the Upper Newtownards Road beside Alliance Party east Belfast MP Naomi Long's office where a PSNI patrol car was petrol bomb reportedly with officers sitting inside
SNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
Loyalist protesters in Belfast city centre protest against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalists in Belfast city centre protesting against restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalist protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Shoppers watch protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Shoppers leave Belfast City Hall's Christmas Market as loyalists arrive at the building to protest the removal of the Union flag
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Oprotesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon after the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon after the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Belfast City Hall's Christmas Market is shut as protesters arrive at the building
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon following the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon following the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/12/12 Loyalist protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union Jack flag earlier this week.Photo Kirth Ferris/Pacemaker
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon following the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists in Belfast city centre for a protest against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalists in Belfast city centre for a protest against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Protesters in Belfast city centre rally against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Protesters in Belfast city centre rally against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week

Stallholders at Belfast’s continental market have reported that trade was slashed by half during Saturday’s flag protest outside City Hall.

What should have been one of the busiest days of the season for festive stallholders transpired to be one of the quietest — prompting some to reconsider returning to Belfast next year.

Stallholders from a range of backgrounds who spoke to the Belfast Telegraph on Sunday said trade fell away on Saturday by as much as 60% — after between 1,500 and 2,000 people gathered at the gates of City Hall for a protest opposing new restrictions on the flying of the Union flag.

Kunwar Basil of the Authentic Indian Cuisine stall, a mainstay of the city’s Christmas Market for the last five years, said the whole weekend had been affected.

“We were 60% down (on trade) from last Saturday. We were told to be prepared for any action but we were not expecting to close,” he said on Sunday.

“Sunday is usually very busy from the start but there were not as many people around. And Monday and Tuesday was also affected. This should be one of the busiest weekends.”

Cecilia (54) — who did not want to give her full name — from Beddy Bears stall added: “The protest should not have been allowed to go ahead when a Continental Market is going on.

“I would have to have a re-assessment now. These stands cost a lot of money and we cannot afford to have days like that. We need every day of trade to cover ourselves.”

Iliya Nikandrov (27), a Russian stallholder, agreed.

“It will make me rethink coming back next year,” he said.

“I have been here three years and I have not seen a protest before. I will have to take it all into consideration when I make my decision (ahead of next year).”

Others were adamant the protests would not change their plans next year.

Philipp Widmer from a Swiss food stall added: “It’s sad this has happened. What shocked me was the decision of the city council to have it (the vote on flag restrictions) at this time. It was bad timing; as a trader, it affects business.”

But customers milling around the Christmas Market on Sunday evening were more optimistic.

Sarah Badger from Cookstown, who was shopping with her husband Philip, said she hoped Saturday’s protest was the end of the flag protests in Belfast city centre.

She said: “I was a bit worried about my 18-year-old daughter coming down here yesterday, but if there was any real trouble she would stay away from it. The trouble is absolutely ridiculous.”

Francis Rock, shopping with his nine-year-old son Michael, added: “I think the politicians need to catch themselves on. Why would they take down a flag just before Christmas?”

From the web

Sponsored Videos

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph