A campaign to help a city ravaged by weeks of violence and rioting has been launched by a regional daily.
The Belfast Telegraph has gathered support from business owners, local authority leaders and even the Prime Minister himself for the scheme, entitled ‘We’re Backing Belfast’.
The campaign includes discount offers encouraging people to eat, drink and shop in the city to help traders hit by ongoing protests by Loyalists over a decision by Belfast City Council not to fly the Union flag at Belfast City Hall 365 days a year.
In an article announcing the launch of the campaign, business journalist Claire McNeilly said: “The campaign aims to encourage people to vote with their feet, to come out and get behind retailers, restaurants and bars.
“Already struggling with the recession and winter weather, many in the hospitality sector have been brought to their knees by weeks of flag protests.
“For seven weeks, normal daily life has been disrupted by ongoing protests and rioting that have turned away vital custom and forced traders to watch profits plummet.
“But we believe our city can bounce back. We are getting behind Belfast and its traders to get the city back on its feet.”
Prime Minister David Cameron is among the senior politicians who have thrown their weight behind the campaign – and he urged others to do the same.
“Belfast is a great and dynamic city and I’m delighted to back the Belfast Telegraph’s campaign,” Mr Cameron said.
“I chose Northern Ireland to hold the G8 conference in June because I want the world to see just what a fantastic place it is.
“We need to work together to project the reality of a forward-looking, modern Northern Ireland that is open for business, not one that is tied up in the kind of conflict that is associated with its past rather than its present.”
Vouchers offering two-for-one cinema tickets, discounted meals and more will be published in the paper regularly to encourage people back into the city.
As well as hitting trade, the riots have sparked a string of violent incidents against journalists and photographers covering the ugly scenes.
Earlier this month, police intercepted a bullet sent through the post to a journalist working for a news outlet in the city, while freelance photographer Peter Morrison was injured in December while covering one protest.