AN Irish Parliament committee will on Thursday discuss the ongoing Union flag protests in Northern Ireland.
The Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement will meet to discuss the impact of the recent protests in Belfast on the local retail sector.
Glyn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) will address the Committee.
Committee chairman Joe McHugh TD said: “Our Committee has been extremely concerned over the past two months at violent protests over the flying of the Union flag.
“It is expected that Mr Roberts will brief the Committee on the extent of the damage done to the local economy in Belfast as well as the wider impact on Northern Ireland as a whole.
“It is estimated that city retailers lost about £15 million in lost trade, with shops, bars and restaurants in the city centre reporting a downturn of up to 50 per cent since the disruption started in early December.
“As the violence has subsided somewhat in recent days, we are encouraged by business leaders’ resolve to proactively engage in rebuilding the image of the city.
“In the past week, representatives of the NIIRTA along with other business leaders met Ministers in Stormont to push for a ‘heavyweight’ marketing campaign for Belfast and its businesses to counter the recent bad publicity.
“Our Committee will have an opportunity to explore how we can help in mitigating the damage done to the image of the city in recent months.”
He added that, as well as the economic implications of the disruptions , the Committee was very concerned at the impact of the developments on community relations.
“Our Committee was welcomed warmly to North and East Belfast last November, and we listened to community leaders outline the ongoing challenges faced in both unionist and nationalist working class districts.
“The Committee will carefully consider how it might provide a space where the concerns of both communities can be voiced in the coming months.
“In reflecting on what was a moving visit to Belfast for many members, we will continue to explore all practical ways to support and nurture the peace process in 2013.”
The meeting commences, with private business, at 10 am, Thursday, January 24 in committee room 4, LH 2000.
It is expected that Mr Roberts will address the Committee in public session from 11 am.
The committee proceedings can be viewed online.