The meeting, facilitated by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, was attended by representatives from the retail and hospitality sectors, providing a forum for them to share their continuing concerns.
Councillor Andrew Webb said: “I and all my Alliance Colleagues are fully engaged with traders to hear their views. I was really appreciative of the opportunity to spend time hearing the anger and concerns of business representatives. I was also heartened to hear the constructive engagement and determination from traders and all political parties to work together to recover from this.’
“As a political representative, and as a Director in a city centre based firm, I am acutely aware of the damage that the protests are causing both locally and to our overseas image, with some potential International investors looking at other regions.
“This meeting was not about recriminations however. For me, and everyone around the table, it was about moving towards solutions for traders and all the people who want to get on with their daily lives in peace.
“In the short term, solutions are required that get the protests off the street and get footfall back into the city – the city is open for business and initiatives like #operationsitin are welcomed. I hope we can see more of this type of effort, and with council support, see initiatives such as meal deals and family friendly events.
“I would also call on the Executive to do everything in its power to support traders – we have seen several instances of Invest NI surrendering underspend, perhaps there is a way these underspends can used here? Finally, I would like to call on the Banks to show patience and understanding to those businesses that have been hit by recent protests.”
Councillor Webb concluded: “I got involved in Belfast politics because I believe that the city has massive potential to grow into a shared city and prosper. I still believe that and this meeting has reiterated how it is only through working in an inclusive manner that we stand a chance of creating a shared future for everyone.”