'Wife beating' sign Belfast restaurant runs Women's Aid fundraiser
The owner of a Belfast restaurant at the centre of the 'Ya can beat the wife' sign controversy says he hopes to "wipe the slate clean" with a fundraising day for Women's Aid NI.
Last Tuesday a young male staff member placed a sign on the street outside Botanic Avenue eatery Ribs & Bibs that bore the phrase '£5 til 5! Ya can beat the wife but ya can't beat a 5 pound lunch!'
Although the sign was removed after half-an-hour following a complaint, a picture already posted on Facebook caused an outcry, with women's groups and politicians accusing the establishment of "trivialising" domestic violence.
Ribs & Bibs owner Malachy Turner apologised for the sign, saying that the business "did not condone domestic violence", but slammed the "horrendous trial by social media".
Yesterday he told the Belfast Telegraph that he hoped the charity event, to be held in the restaurant on October 15, would "right the wrong" the sign had caused.
"We are being proactive, we hope that the fundraiser will raise a lot of money for Women's Aid, which is an organisation we support, and will also raise awareness of domestic violence," he said.
"The member of staff who wrote the sign will be among those working at that, and he and the other staff will also be attending a talk by a domestic violence victim which has been organised through Women's Aid.
"The guy who wrote it, who is a vulnerable member of staff, went to stay with a friend in England for a few days and has only recently returned.
"He told me he couldn't believe that I had protected him by refusing to reveal his identity, but I would fall on my sword before I throw that wee lad under a bus. It has been a rude awakening for him in the sense that he has learned that you can't just put something which you find flippant out there.
"Out of the 10,000 who see it, 1,000 may be laughing their heads off, but 9,000 may think it's horrendous."
Despite his initial fears that his business might have to close, he revealed the restaurant had enjoyed its "busiest week ever" in the wake of the saga.
"I'm a lot more positive than I was this time last week," he said.
"We had a family who drove 70 miles from Tyrone just to show their support by eating at the restaurant, and diners keep telling the staff that they are behind us.
"We have had women who came down from a women's shelter to have a meal, as they read about the story and saw the abuse online. I gave them a hug, I was tearful.
"People have rallied round in support, although we are still getting messages from people who say they hope the business closes, and reviewing the restaurant as 'one star' despite never having eaten here.
"Those messages have been quite vindictive. Will all this have a long-term effect? Ask me before Christmas."
Louise Kennedy of Women's Aid NI said it was "positive" that Ribs & Bibs was "trying to rectify their mistake".
"What we want is for people to recognise how damaging something like this can be and for people to stop for a minute and think how a victim of domestic violence walking by and seeing that would feel," she said.
"It's not just a bit of banter - it can do damage to a victim of domestic violence."