Trade bodies give blessing to campaign

THE Backin’ Belfast campaign drew the blessing of industry representatives yesterday after a high level meeting at Stormont to garner support for the initiative.

Colin Neill of Pubs of Ulster, Glyn Roberts of the independent retail group NIIRTA and Joe Jordan, president of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce said they were encouraged by the response to their request for urgent support amid the ongoing flag protests.

The three men met First Minister Peter Robinson, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, Justice Minister David Ford, Culture Arts and Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín and Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy – along with SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell, to press them over the impact of the flag protests on the city’s economy.

In a joint statement they said they welcomed the opportunity to discuss the immediate crisis.

“We reiterated our concerns around the critical situation in Belfast, its arterial routes and further afield, which now needs immediate assistance in order to survive this particularly challenging time.

“As Belfast is the centre of the local economy, it’s vital that our efforts are focused here first; if it suffers, all of Northern Ireland will suffer. We hope that by protecting the future of trade in Belfast, we are limiting the damage to local businesses right across Northern Ireland, ensuring the sustainability of the local economy as a whole.

“We have been greatly encouraged by the level of support we received today and we welcome all discussions focused on providing immediate support for the Belfast business community. Each Minister has stepped up to the plate and vowed to look at ways to help traders and retailers get through this difficult time. We have made significant progress and a number of options are currently being explored, including a commitment to provide an immediate marketing campaign and mechanisms to help cash flow for businesses worst affected.

“Overall, it is clear that there is a shared commitment to urgently helping the local business community, and this is something that we will continue to drive forward.”