Northern Ireland

Belfast stores hit by Twelfth tensions

Media captionAndrew Irvine from Belfast City Centre Management says shops will be open next year

Drunken behaviour and tensions around parades has hit the promotion of 12 July as an 'Orangefest,' in Belfast, a report has said.

Since 2009 many retailers in the city centre have opened on 12 July, when the Orange Order celebrates William III's victory at the Battle of the Boyne.

However, the Belfast City Centre Management report said trade was hit heavily this year.

It said one "well-known High Street brand" had only seven customers.

The report said store owners were now questioning whether it was worth continuing to open on 12 July.

Businesses reported "an increase in tensions," with the perception that it had put people off coming into Belfast.

Just over 80% of shops that opened reported trade below expectations.

Another big concern was people openly drinking alcohol on the streets, with large amounts of rubbish being left behind.


Visit Belfast received complaints from tourists who talked of "an intimidatory atmosphere" and "louts roaming around drunk."

The report said that, based on their 2013 experience, 65% of businesses would potentially not open next 12 July, something described as "frankly disappointing."

"The main problem is in altering the wider perceptions of the city centre on 12 July," it said.

"The tensions that surrounded the run-up to the main parades did not help, indeed one can argue that the protests and civil disorder have set back the Orangefest programme."

Sixty-five percent of shops said they were thinking twice about opening next year, but with 12 July falling on a Saturday, a spokesman for Belfast City Centre Management said that scenario seemed very unlikely.

One positive was a food market in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.

"The presence of the Festival of Fools and the Good Food NI market was a positive for the day. Both were acclaimed for adding a family atmosphere."

A spokesman for the Orange Order's County Grand Lodge of Belfast said it was aware of the Belfast City Centre Management report and it would form part of the annual review of Orangefest.

"The institution has had a good and successful working relationship with Belfast City Centre Management over many years, and we remain committed to work with all our city centre partners to enhance the Twelfth of July celebrations in Belfast," the spokesman said.

In a statement the Department of Social Development said the Belfast City Centre Management Report is specifically focussed on Orangefest 2013 in Belfast City Centre.

It reflects one day in one place, the statement said.

A report commissioned by the DSD said, earlier this year, that the economic and social benefits generated by the loyal orders and marching bands community amounted to approximately £54m a year.

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