A cold grey, gloomy Sunday afternoon did nothing to welcome the visitor to Carrickfergus.
The castle was closed, as were most of the shops with not much to welcome the casual visitor except a few bars doing a paltry trade.
With its picturesque seaside scenery, history oozing out of the very walls and its location on the route to the north coast and Giant’s Causeway, Carrick would expect to attract at least a few tourists no matter what. But on Sunday it was like a ghost town.
Given the nature of the day, it was hard to tell if people were staying away as much because of the weather as Friday night’s trouble, when more than 100 loyalists attacked police with petrol bombs, bricks and fireworks.
Down at the harbour, three cold-looking Christians had set up their speakers on a green outside the castle, but there was literally not a sinner to hear them as their words of the gospel were torn away on the frigid sea breeze. A few yards from the forlorn preachers, the roundabout on the main Belfast Road where Friday night’s violence was concentrated is festooned with Union flags.
There was little other sign of the rioting but a trader said shops around the seat of the violence were bearing the brunt.
“It’s affecting businesses badly — businesses will close because of this.
“You can’t afford to pay staff if people don’t come out, so you send them home and they don’t get paid and it’s a vicious circle.”
He said most people, and certainly the business community, were against the protests, but scared to speak out.
“There’s a lot of anger in the town about this.”
Pointing at the Irish Gate which leads down on to the main shore road through the town, he said: “Up to 200 people came walking down that road on Friday night with scarves over their faces — it was very intimidating.
“They are not all violent, there are ordinary people among them upset about the flag issue which is fine, but it’s what happens afterwards that’s the problem.”
Another trader said takeaway outlets in the centre of the town are the worst hit, as they have to close and even if they stay open, their drivers can’t get through the roadblocks to make deliveries.
With a hint of sarcasm he said: “The one exception is the off-licence where they go to get their bottles of Buckfast, which is a problem in itself and tells you what kind of people are involved.”
The owner of a takeaway food shop, who again didn’t want to be identified because of fear of being attacked, said he had to close on several occasions in the past few weeks.
Leaning on the counter in his empty shop, he said: “The police have come around and advised us to close.
“Other times we have decided to shut ourselves as no one is coming into town and there’s no point staying open.
“I’ve been losing around £200 a week which doesn’t sound much, but for a small business like mine it’s a lot.
“This will never end. I’m worried they will start all the shooting and bombing again — it’s a terrible state of affairs.”