This paper is today launching a ‘We’re Backing Belfast’ campaign to urge everyone to come out and support the city in its time of need.
The campaign aims to encourage people to vote with their feet, to come out and get behind retailers, restaurants and bars.
Already struggling with the recession and winter weather, many in the hospitality sector have been brought to their knees by weeks of flag protests.
For seven weeks, normal daily life has been disrupted by ongoing protests and rioting that have turned away vital custom and forced traders to watch profits plummet.
But we believe our city can bounce back. Today’s paper includes a series of deals and special offers to encourage people to come into the city this weekend.
Our campaign has received wide-ranging support from across Northern Ireland and beyond — from Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Peter Robinson, other senior politicians politicians, business groups and those in the entertainment industry.
And their message is unequivocally the same — please make a point of doing something to support the local economy, especially this weekend.
Prime Minister David Cameron has thrown his weight behind the Belfast Telegraph campaign and has urged all of us to do the same.
“Belfast is a great and dynamic city and I'm delighted to back the Belfast Telegraph's campaign,” Mr Cameron said.
“I chose Northern Ireland to hold the G8 conference in June because I want the world to see just what a fantastic place it is.
“We need to work together to project the reality of a forward-looking, modern Northern Ireland that is open for business, not one that is tied up in the kind of conflict that is associated with its past rather than its present.”
Also backing our consumer and economic initiative, First Minister Peter Robinson called on the community to support local businesses. “This campaign can not only send out a positive message, but hopefully encourage everyone in the community to stand behind our local businesses who serve us all,” he said.
Meanwhile, high-profile faces across every sector in Northern Ireland turned out to lend their voices to our drive to boost trade.
John Moore, owner of the city centre-based retail outlet SS Moore Sports, said that this is a make or break time for Belfast.
“We support the Belfast Telegraph’s campaign wholeheartedly and we must get people back into the city,” said Mr Moore.
“Everyone knows that the situation is critical and that something needs to be done before it’s too late.”
Their united clarion call comes as weather reports suggest snow will make its first appearance in the province this weekend.
Belfast Chamber of Commerce president Joe Jordan said: “Please, please don’t let the weather put you off. Come into the city.”
Voices of reason backing campaign
Finance Minister Sammy Wilson: “While people have a right to protest they also have a responsibility not to make their community a poorer place in which to live. This madness should stop and that is why I support the Belfast Telegraph campaign.”
Justice Minister David Ford: “I support the Belfast Telegraph’s one-day campaign to support your local economy and stop this madness. Our local traders are the backbone of our economy which is why we must stop this disruption.”
Tourism Minister Arlene Foster: “I welcome the Belfast Telegraph’s campaign to bring increased business into Belfast city centre. Now, more than ever, it is vital that we support our local businesses during what are extremely trying trading conditions.”
Shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker: “Make this the year to come to Northern Ireland and show off Belfast for the brilliant place it is.”
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds: “The economy needs all the help it can get and Belfast has an enormous amount to offer. "
Retail analyst Donald McFetridge: “January is always a very cruel month in the retail calendar. Our high streets are already peppered with black holes and boarded up shops. I encourage consumers to get out and shop.”
CBI chairman Ian Coulter: “The month of January is always a difficult month for traders. Please support local traders this weekend.”
Pubs of Ulster Colin Neill: “We commend the Belfast Telegraph for taking this action. The evening economy in Belfast has been worst affected by this and we are at breaking point. We’re trying to take back the city. It’s vital that people come out.
Botanic Inns managing director Stephen Magorrian: “It is unacceptable that the reputation of our great city is being destroyed, along with the economy. We need to #TakeBackTheCity.”
Tourism Ireland chairman, Brian Ambrose: “Anything that damages the image of Northern Ireland is a disservice to this wonderful part of the world.”
SS Moore’s boss John Moore: “We support the Belfast Telegraph’s campaign wholeheartedly. We must get the people who are loyal to Belfast back into the city. Something needs to be done before it’s too late.”
CastleCourt boss Paul McMahon: “We are fully behind the Belfast Telegraph's campaign to encourage people to come into our city centre stores and support retailers. Don’t wait until it’s too late. ”
Belfast City Airport, Katy Best: “Independent businesses right across the city are being impacted significantly and we should all be supporting them as best we can.”
Belfast International Airport managing director John Doran: “We support the Belfast Telegraph campaign. In these taxing times, we must continue to support our local traders and businesses — the lifeblood of our economy.”
NI Hotel Federation boss Janice Gault. “Hotels are working hard at generating interest and reassuring guests to ensure longer term prospects for the tourism economy.”
NICVA boss Seamus McAreavey: “We need to stop pushing the self-destruct button. It is time our politics and our peace process came of age.”
NI Amnesty International director Patrick Corrigan: “The right to food and drink are two of my absolute favourite human rights! There's no better place than Belfast to exercise those rights, so I'll be taking the family to the city centre to show support for workers in the hospitality sector whose livelihoods are at risk. The people must pull together if we don’t want to be pulled apart. Well done to the Belfast Telegraph for yet again showing great leadership through this crisis.”
Labour Peer Baroness May Blood MBE: “If we give in to these threats then Belfast will go back to a bad time. People have to carry on as normal and come out and spend money and that’s why I completely support the Belfast Telegraph’s campaign.”
Comedian Jake O’Kane: “The reality is that it’s madness. It has gone beyond any sane level of protest. People are hurting their own communities and city and it is time that is was drawn to a close. Go out and support local traders.”
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