Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

'Businesses in Belfast can't afford Christmas disruption'

The scene at the top of Chichester Street in Belfast City Centre beside Victoria Square where a car bomb partially exploded late last night.
The scene at the top of Chichester Street in Belfast City Centre beside Victoria Square where a car bomb partially exploded late last night.

Northern Ireland's economy cannot afford another Christmas of disruptive protest and unrest, business leaders have warned.

Their comments come in the aftermath of Sunday night's bomb and planned protests by loyalists this coming weekend in the city.

According to Ann McGregor, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, the negative impact from the action affects all parts of the province and dents Northern Ireland's global standing.

"There are not just economic dangers for Belfast retailers, but for the whole of Northern Ireland," she said. "Businesses operating in tourism need visitors; our large, small and medium sized enterprise base needs large inward investors to supply and our exporters need to demonstrate security of supply."

Linda Brown, director of the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland agreed.

"Incidents like this pay untold damage to the local economy and our reputation abroad," she said. "As the IoD told Dr Haass in our recent talks, it's only through a concerted focus on economic issues as the key to unlocking social problems, can we really hope to solve the politics.

"The right of businesses to trade uninterrupted, unthreatened and unharmed is paramount to society's progression."

And business owners have added to the calls for a more peaceful festive season, particularly at this Saturday's loyalist protests.

"Hopefully, everyone will stick to the guidelines," Niall Davis, the co-owner of new Belfast restaurant Howard Street said. "People have the right to protest but we also have the right to run a business."

Paul McMahon, president of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, condemned Sunday night's bomb attack.

"Unfortunately, there are people from different sections of the community who want to take us back to the bad days.

"We would appeal to these people, whatever their political aims, to think about the future of Belfast, the protection of jobs and the overall economy.

"We have been encouraged by support from many people and we will continue to do everything possible to make Belfast a vibrant and attractive city."

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