Belfast Telegraph

Ardoyne traders crippled by parades stand

By Dave Whelan

Ardoyne traders are being crippled to the point of closure because of heightened parade season tensions it has been claimed.

Businesses that line the Crumlin Road area of north Belfast said that they have struggled with a dramatic drop in business as a result of repeated attempted marches and police stand-offs.

A permanent protest camp, set up by loyalists, is currently in place at the Twaddell interface with Ardoyne and is the base for attempted marches to the top of the Woodvale Road at the junction with the Crumlin Road.

Loyal Orders had originally applied to the Parades Commission to march each Saturday but various groups have now applied to hold daily marches, resulting in a heavy police presence in the area.

The area is a shared space and serves both sides of the community but local traders have said people from each side of the divide are now boycotting the shops because of intimidation.

One business owner, who did not wish to be identified because of the fear that his business would be targeted and over concerns for his staff's safety, said that he is considering closing or moving his business after the disappearance of passing trade.

"As traders we don't get involved in politics and would oppose any protest or flag flying that affects business on the road," he said.

"We are in a situation where we are on a busy road and 1.5 miles away from the city centre but people are too afraid to stop or get out of their cars or leave their houses to walk past the protest camp."

The business owner said that his own staff, who come from both sides of the community, were "terrified" of coming to and from work and that they had to set up a delivery business to accommodate customers who would not visit the interface.

"This area has received national bad publicity every year around the Twelfth of July and if you look around you can see the impact. Shops are closing on a weekly basis, the place looks run down and there is absolutely no regeneration or help from those in a position of power.

"What hurts the most is when you see people trying to make a political career out of what has gone on here while destroying businesses and taking jobs from the local community.

"We don't want handouts or compensation for the business we have lost but we do want something done to help the area get back on its feet and get people back into the shops and secure the jobs of ordinary working-class people."

Earlier this week, the Housing Executive said that they would not take steps to remove the loyalist protest camp that is situated on waste ground owned by them because they feared it would cause further violence.

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