Belfast Telegraph

Belfast's Christmas shoppers defy dissidents

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Belfast is bouncing back against the bombers.

Just one day after another attempt to bring the city to its knees, the people of Belfast have come out in their droves to show they won't be cowed.

On Monday night the Cornmarket area was a ghost town after it was sealed off with police tape following a foiled incendiary device attack on pop-up shop Golf Madness.

But last night it was beginning to look a lot more like the week before Christmas.

The streets were filled with people bustling around laden with shopping bags, chatting and laughing against the backdrop of classic Christmas songs and twinkling lights, defiantly ignoring the bombers.

Golf Madness co-owner Nick Pierpoint said business had never been better.

"We have had a fabulous day.

"There has been so much goodwill, it's really amazing.

"If ever there was any doubt as to whether we were going to keep going there is none now – it's fantastic.

"This has not put us off coming back to Belfast again, in fact we are hoping to be back again at Easter."

Shoppers appeared unfazed by recent events with some even choosing yesterday as their first night to come in to the city.

Elish Loughran (52) and daughter Natasha (16), from Belfast, said they would not be deterred from doing their Christmas shopping as they browsed the pop-up golf shop for gifts.

Elish said: "I'm not fazed by this, I've seen it before.

"We live five minutes away and we won't be put off, it's one of those things. We have a lot of shopping to do and we will be coming to Belfast."

Colin Loy (37) said: "This is my first time in the city after the bomb attacks and I definitely will not be put off by them at all."

A few streets away it was business as usual for St Anne's Square, in the Cathedral Quarter, as visitors showed a united front.

While the memory of Friday's bomb explosion hung in the air with a visible police presence – last night excited children from Suffolk Youth Club were on their Christmas outing to the Mac Theatre pantomime.

It was a stark contrast to the disappointed faces which were seen being evacuated just three days earlier.

Volunteer Danielle Bradshaw said they couldn't let the children down.

"Some parents were a bit anxious about sending their children tonight and some children haven't turned up," she said.

"But we booked the tickets around six months ago and they have been so looking forward to it, we couldn't let them down."

Neighbouring restaurant The Potted Hen – which was among the eateries evacuated during Friday's alert – was buzzing with customers.

Two hopeful diners, Nuala and John Dunlop, were even turned away because it was fully booked.

John said: "The attacks hadn't even entered our minds.

"We are just out for dinner after work and we were turned away from The Potted Hen which is booked up all night – which is a good sign."

Manager Debbie Lowell said they were busy for the rest of the week and had received no cancellations since Friday's incident.

Around the corner, festive spirits remained high as the Duke of York and the Harp bars were full to the brim.

Alistair Rooney (23) travelled from Wicklow, and friend Trevor Riddle (28), who was visiting from Canada, said the headlines had not affected their trip.

Doiminic Bell (41) and Christopher Casey (36), from Belfast, said: "Nothing or nobody will stop me from going out in Belfast at Christmas.

"I have come through the Troubles and the peace process and no one is going to take us.

"I've drank in this bar for 24 years and people don't come in here to talk about politics – the only row that breaks out is over whose round it is next.

"People need to get on with their lives."

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