Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Deirdre Hargey said the joint statement by unionist councillors regarding the lowering of rates was a disgrace and an abdication of their responsibilities.
The South Belfast councillor said:
“Once again unionist councillors have used the intemperate language of ‘tearing’ down a flag and also washed their hands of all responsibility to do with the flag protests. That is a disgrace and an abdication of their responsibilities.
“The blame for traders poor return at Christmas lies at the feet of the protestors and those who stoked up tension around the democratic decision taken by the council.
“Sinn Féin have proposed a zero rise in rates which along with inflation actually means a cut in rates, would actually be the first such move in 20 years by the council.
“Unionists now advocating a setting of the rates at a minus need to explain to people where the cuts are going to come from to pay for this.
“This would affect the investment package announced by the council and would have a knock on affect on creating new jobs. Services would also be affected
“What services do the unionist councillors calling for this want to see cut; the investment package for those areas suffering from deprivation and the jobs that will come from this, community grants, Parks & Leisure, tackling flooding etc?
“ Sinn Féin would advise traders against withholding their rates as has been reported. What is needed now is for the ending of all protests and Belfast’s positive image to come to the fore.
“Business leaders can help by adding their voice for an end to these futile protests that have damaged the image and trading within the city.”