Published on 12 Jan 2013

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.

Andy said:

“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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3 reader comments

  1. BelfastKoala says:

    Thank to Alex Thomson for telling it like it actually is and giving the embarrassed majority a voice. My parents in Australia are getting very anxious – every night they see Belfast on the news, streets they are familiar with from visits here burning, reports that people can’t get to hospital to visit loved ones and medical staff are unable to get to work. Reports about Belfast getting on with it are few and far between, and it’s the story the world needs to hear. That there are a few eejits who are looking for any reason to make trouble, some people who are looking for identity in the new Northern Ireland, and a whole lot of people who just want to live the way we lived a year ago, celebrating inward investment and growing tourism, but most of all just enjoying the craic in this great city.

  2. S.B. BELFAST says:

    Furthermore and I ask this of serious, decent, well respected journos like yourself Alex. When is the role of the British Security Services and Smileys People going to be called into question by the British media as to what’s going on in the North of Ireland? Given that the PSNI and other respected ‘security’ journalists in the North of Ireland media have publically stated that the UVF in East Belfast and UDA elements in Rathcoole/South East Antrim are behind the current violence AND given the fact that BOTH these Loyalist groupings have historically been controlled by MI5 and RUC/PSNI Special Branch when are we going to get some responsible investigative journalism as to the current situation? The North of Ireland is very much smoke and mirrors Alex and you know as you have experience of this place. The furore over the flags is being used for the sinister agendas of others including those within the British Intelligence Services who need to justify their existence and budgets or who like extremist Unionists and Loyalists are opposed to the Peace Process and who want ultimate victory over Nationalists and Republicans. Believe me Alex they are very much reality and are out there as your experience of Rangers and their Scottish media/Masonic/Orange/Intelligence Services secret society apologists proved. You can bet that many of these same, sinister people are also involved in this flags issue.

  3. Alan says:

    Surely the small collection of fools who sat round a table and thought that depriving Ulstermen of the sight of the Union flag flying over City Hall was a good idea, must have realised that it would not go un-noticed! Are they really that stupid or did they do it to deliberately wind up the Loyalists?
    Whatever the reason, they have managed to create one hell of a mess and a lot of suffering.
    Time to back-track, and fast!

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