Northern Ireland

Flag protests: Council to spend £400k to help businesses

Police in riot gear in Belfast
Image caption Some of the protests in Belfast have turned violent and deterred people from coming into the city centre

Belfast City Council is to spend £400,000 to support businesses whose trade has been hit because of union flag protests.

This is in addition to money pledged by the Stormont Executive.

The Confederation of British Industry estimates the protests have cost city centre traders £15m in lost business.

Protests have been held since councillors voted on 3 December to limit the number of days the union flag flies over Belfast City Hall.

Earlier this week it was announced that the Northern Ireland Tourist Board is to fund a £600,000 advertising campaign under the marketing theme of 'Back in Belfast' to encourage people back into the city centre.

The money is being made available through the department of enterprise.

On Friday, the city council agreed to divert £400,000 of its money to assist the campaign.

A total of £150,000 will go towards advertising. According to one councillor, the remaining £250,000 of council money will be spent on a series of events aimed at creating a more "welcoming atmosphere" in the city centre.

Earlier this month, Belfast City Council agreed a rates freeze to help traders affected by the flags trouble but ruled out a reduction or payment holiday.

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