Can #operationsitin lift Belfast’s economy?
The embarrassed majority here in Belfast look on appalled at the relatively small number of people inflicting real economic damage with their refusal to accept the democratic decision of a council over flag flying.
Last night to counter the roadblocks set up to cripple Belfast and beyond, #operationsitin began. The idea’s simply to go to your favourite cafe or bar; to buy and put something into a hard-hit economy; to ignore what’s going on from a tiny group.
So we caught up with Andy, Keith and Rose in a Belfast bar and their comments speak for so many, many of the embarrassed majority here.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous and the vast majority of people in Belfast appreciate that. Over new year a lot of our businesses were hit really hard and we need to show solidarity. We’re not going to let this get in the way of us going about our normal lives.”
“Our business has people coming from London who don’t understand and they’re scared. They’re seeing it like it’s bad old Belfast again. It’s quite embarrassing to try to explain to people that they’re safe here. It’s that perception that they’re not safe which is so damaging.”
“There are loads if people unaffected by what’s going on. You can have a route into and away from work and not see any of it and that’s what people don’t get when they see it all on the news.”
Further signs of all that this morning in the wonderful, refurbishment of St George’s Market.
Buzzing this morning, fruit ‘n’ veg, stalls selling dinky little cushions and wood-carvings.
Scented by coffee, the band in the central cafe area is belting out Van Morrison’s “Domino” – Van of course a son of East Belfast.
Half a mile east the screens and crush barriers are already up to steward loyalist marchers past the nationalist Short Strand.
Half a mile west Tactical Support Group police landrovers are ranked up next to City Hall.
The Loyalist rally is news. St George’s Market is life.
As we leave St George’s the band sings: “I’ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day.”
By the time we reached City Hall the sun had, indeed, come out.
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