Belfast Telegraph

Retailers in Republic boosted by flag protests

By Claire McNeilly

Retailers in the Republic have reported a significant increase in trade over the festive period at the expense of the Northern Ireland economy.

Traders here are blaming the Union flag disruption during December for the exodus which has seen local shoppers going south and deterred southern shoppers from coming north.

A favourable pound-euro exchange rate — where sterling buys more euros — has also helped lure potential customers south of the border.

Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) boss Glyn Roberts said that southern retailers have seen a marked increase in northern shoppers.

“The continued protests have caused a significant disruption to trade over the last month and it is sad to see our local traders losing out,” said Mr Roberts.

“The protests and disruption have to end because the damage being done to the retail and hospitality sectors is huge.

“We urge our politicians to resolve this issue immediately and to take it off the streets.”

Business in Belfast is down by up to 30% in shops, restaurants and bars.

Bob McCoubrey, who owns the Mourne Seafood Bar in Belfast and Dundrum, was in Dublin on Monday, which he said was bustling.

“Unlike Belfast, the streets of Dublin were thronged with people and I have to say that I heard a lot of Northern Irish accents,” he said. “The shops and restaurants were very, very busy and I certainly didn’t see the large number of ‘To Let’ signs that we’re seeing here.

“We’re in an economic mess and we need our politicians to sort this out.”

Dublin-based cookery school director Rozanne Stevens, who is also a chef in Belfast, said she had noticed that the number of shoppers in the Republic going north had fallen dramatically.

“I drive between Dublin and Belfast all the time and I have really noticed a difference in the traffic heading to Belfast,” she said.

“Lately I’ve also noticed a lot more Northern Irish accents in Dublin in the shops, restaurtants and bars.”

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