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Flag protests cause drop in visitor numbers from 26 County – McLaughlin MLA

29 November, 2013 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin (Foyle) has stated that she firmly believes that the 44% drop in visitors from the South of Ireland cannot be divorced from the on-going flag protests.

Ms McLaughlin said:

“This statistic is a stark indicator of the detrimental effect that the on-going flag protests are having on our economy in general but in particular the tourist sector.

“I am in no doubt that the major contributing factor for the 44% drop in visitors from the South in six months is the intimidating nature of these protests. The fact that the number of overseas visitors flat-lined and the only area of increase was that from GB would tend to support this view.

“If Unionist politicians are serious about marketing this part of Ireland as a welcoming and safe tourist destination, then it’s about time they not only unambiguously condemn these protests but use their influence to have them stopped. The qualified call by unionist politicians for organisers of this Saturday’s protest in Belfast to rethink their strategy is an abdication of leadership. They should be demanding in no uncertain terms that it be called off. The damage to the economy is unacceptable.

"I believe that the stubborn insistence in pursuing the failed 'Brand Northern Ireland' agenda is not only encouraging the mentality of the flag protesters but damaging our potential for growth in the tourism economy. We cannot afford a drop of 44% in visitors from anywhere but particularly from within this island because of people who continue to live in the past.

"However we see ourselves, there is no denying that, all around the world people see the island of Ireland and its people as a single entity. Those tasked with tourism promotion need to realise that reality. It would greatly enhance our attractiveness to potential visitors if we accepted that there is far greater potential in promoting Ireland as a single destination for visitors, by marketing attractions such as the Giants Causeway, Dublin City, the Lakes of Fermanagh, the Cliffs of Moher and the Walls of Derry as a single tourist product”

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