Trade Minister Arlene Foster has told Union flag protesters it is time to move their demonstrations off the streets for the sake of retailers.
As protests were staged across Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland for an 11th night, the DUP MLA said that traders are deeply concerned that the unrest is “having an impact on the wellbeing” of town and city centres.
“Let’s take it off the streets,” she said. “Of course people have the right to protest in a peaceful way, but unfortunately we have had some violence... we want to move beyond that now.
“I’m saying now we must look beyond protests and look at what we can do as a unionist family.”
But SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said the call was long overdue and added: “If she is so determined to make Northern Ireland a successful region, why has she let traders down by keeping silent for so long? This is a question she must answer.”
Senior members of the UDA have held talks with the DUP and UUP in a bid to end the flag protests.
However, protests were still being held across many parts of Northern Ireland last night. Demonstrations took place in Belfast, Cookstown, Clough, Banbridge and Omagh, with traffic disruption in some areas.