Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Belfast traders fear another winter of discontent

Worried man: Glyn Roberts
Worried man: Glyn Roberts

Shops and businesses will close if Belfast is hit by another winter of discontent over parading, it has been claimed.

The stark warning comes ahead of a loyalist march through the city centre today.

Thousands of protesters are expected to take part in the march, which will pass the scene of serious disorder last month.

The parade will finish at Woodvale Parade, the spot where a Loyal Order feeder parade was blocked on July 12, preventing it from passing Ardoyne shops.

Traders have voiced their concern about a major march being held on the main shopping day of the week. There are fears that further marches could seriously hit the city's economy in the run-up to Christmas.

Glyn Roberts, who is chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said it was the last thing retailers needed.

"There is absolutely no way that Belfast or Northern Ireland can afford to have another summer like this year or the Christmas we had last year," he said.

"We've got to make every effort to ensure that disruption from these parades is kept to a minimum."

Mr Roberts said a spate of protests could lead to shops closing and jobs being lost, because people will be deterred from entering the city centre.

Today's parade has been organised by a group calling itself Loyal Peaceful Protesters.

Permission was granted for a parade of 20 bands and 5,000 marchers. The organisers expect 5,000 supporters to turn out.

The Parades Commission has moved the march from 2pm to 12.30pm, and ruled it must be clear of the city centre by 1pm.

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