Northern Ireland pubs 'hammered' by flag protests

Pubs and shops are counting the cost

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Northern Ireland's pubs and restaurants are being "hammered" by the ongoing union flag protests.

Colin Neill of Pubs of Ulster said trade was down 20 to 30% during the busiest time of the year.

There have been protests since 3 December when Belfast City Council voted to only fly the flag on designated days at city hall.

Violence has flared following some of them.

"We're seeing trade down maybe 30% at the beginning, maybe about 20% now," Mr Neill told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.

"We're seeing premises sending staff home and this is our critical period, this is when we make a third of our year's turnover. We're getting hammered.

"A big chunk of our business is the evening economy and if people are uncertain about going out, we lose out. It's serious, it's critical."

He said businesses were only starting to recover from the water crisis of December 2010, when at one point 40,000 properties in Northern Ireland were without running water during severe winter weather.

"Two years ago at Christmas we were left devastated and that cost jobs and caused premises to close," Mr Neill said.

"We're now looking again at our critical period, it's taken our guys probably two years to stabilise their bank accounts and we're losing out again.

"It's not for us to judge the rights and wrongs of this, all I can say is it's having a serious impact and it will cost jobs."

Meanwhile, one man who had his car burned out following a protest in south Belfast has said it will be at least six months before he gets any compensation - if he gets it at all.

Dan Murphy's burnt car Dan Murphy's car was burnt out outside his south Belfast home

Dan Murphy's car was attacked outside his Shaw's Bridge home in the aftermath of a protest last week.

He said his insurance provider has told him they will not pay for it as the do not cover over "vandalism and acts of riotous behaviour".

"It was burnt out completely and as well as obviously the financial loss I had to pay to get it salvaged and recovered," Mr Murphy said.

"I've been taking the bus to work now and I've had to change shifts.

"I normally work nights when there's no public transport available, so I've been getting taxis and I've had to change shifts around to sort of accommodate me, so obviously my colleagues are taking the brunt of this as well."

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