Businesses counting the cost of St Patrick's Day festivities
The celebration of St Patrick's Day continues to cast a shadow over the business and social life of Belfast.
This year there were shameful scenes in the Holylands area, and now city centre trader Chris Suitor has indicated that he will not open his menswear shop on St Patrick's Day next year because of what happened near his premises.
Due to youths congregating nearby on March 17, he closed his shop because he was concerned for the safety of his staff. We respect Mr Suitor's decision and it is highly regrettable that the degeneration of St Patrick's Day into an excuse for all-day drinking is having this baleful effect on our retail and tourist attractions.
St Patrick's Day and the Twelfth of July are important here for a number of reasons, ranging from their religious roots to an opportunity for a holiday. However, the celebrations are vital to our economy, and are also a tourist attraction.
In previous years the Twelfth parades closed the city centre, apart from a few food stalls, with a significant loss of business.
However, the 'Orangefest' has helped to give the parades a wider appeal. The Order and all other stakeholders deserve credit for doing so. A similar co-ordinated approach is needed to clean up the St Patrick's Day celebrations in the Holylands.
The drunkenness in the Holylands gives cause for concern, and something must be done about it. Such scenes shame our city, and the current crop of university graduates, but the problem is much deeper than that.
Belfast City Council, our two universities and all the other organisations involved, must work out a plan to deal with such anti-social behaviour.
This must be done now, and not left to the last minute when next year's celebrations are imminent.
They must devise a balanced approach that will prove celebration-friendly, trader-friendly and tourist-friendly.
If the Orange Order can do this effectively, surely those celebrating St Patrick's Day can do so with dignity, enjoyment and mutual respect.