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Tourism Chief Roy Baillie
"We know who is to blame"
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Orange protests 'wrecking' tourism
A burnt-out car lying on a Belfast street
Four nights of violence: The aftermath in Belfast
Northern Ireland's tourism chief has blamed the Orange Order for violence which he says could have a catastrophic effect on the economy.

Roy Baillie, chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, said that the Orange Order's call for mass protests over the disputed Drumcree parade had "wrecked" tourism for this year - and possibly next year as well.

He predicted that the marching season would batter confidence in Northern Ireland as a tourism destination.

And in other development, Northern Ireland's trade minister Sir Reg Empey has said a high-powered American delegation to Northern Ireland by a group of American executives, led by U.S. ambassador to Britain Phil Lader has been postponed after the fourth night of Drumcree-linked disturbances.

The Orange Order marching at Drumcree
Protest: Tourism chief blames Orange Order

Mr Baillie criticised the Orange Order as it blamed the government for the violence.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Baillie said: "I think that the responsibility lies with the Orange Order.

"It's fine to blame the government, but they have called for people to go onto the streets.

"The consequences of that rhetoric are being seen on the ground."

Tourism growth

Some 1.6 million tourists spent a record 255m in Northern Ireland during 1999, the highest number of visitors since the start of the peace process.
The Giant's Causeway
Giant's Causeway: Record tourism numbers

Mr Baillie said that 20,000 jobs could be created in an industry worth 500m a year if the tourist trade in Northern Ireland was able to match that of its neighbours.

But he said that continued uncertainty meant that Northern Ireland was welcoming only 10% of the tourists who visit the island of Ireland every year.

"Tourism is a long term project," he said.

"When people wake up and see images of violent clashes, burning cars, rioting in the streets, people attacking the police, it doesn't take much intelligence to realise that people will avoid this area.

"The damage for this year was done last year.

"We are one of the best parts of the island of Ireland but we are not getting the visits because of the perception of violence on the streets - and that perception is being confirmed.

"Tourism is one of the only industries from which everyone benefits and to which everyone can contribute.

"The contributions of the last few evenings have been absolutely appalling, totally unacceptable and totally damaging."

Hotelier Billy Hastings said he was "certain" that booking cancellations for the Hasting Hotel Group's Belfast hotels would soon start to pour in.

'Business life disruption'

Large stores and shops in Belfast city centre have said they have cancelled their usual late Thursday night opening because of the previous nights of disruption and unrest.

Pubs, restaurants, cinemas and libraries are also closing early.

Frank Caddy, chief executive of the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said this was partly on the advice of security forces.

"The pattern of disruption is evidently becoming more organised. Last night a number of staff had problems getting home.

"Based on last night's experience, and on advice from the police, and having due regard for the safety of our staff and customers, we will not be proceeding with a late night opening this evening. Nor will we be opening late next Thursday, July 13," he said.

Orange Order defiant

Speaking earlier, David Jones, spokesman for the Portadown Orange Lodge leading the Drumcree protests, blamed the government for the disruption.
1999 Tourism
1.64m visitors
310,000 tourists
98,000 from UK
11% up on 1998
22% increase from Republic of Ireland

Refusing to take responsibility, Mr Jones said that the government's support for the Parades Commission ruling to refuse to allow the march through a nationalist area of Portadown had created a "very fraught and dangerous situation".

And Mr Baillie said: "I'm all for peaceful protest. But if I did not like a law, I'd try and change it.

"I wouldn't go out onto the streets and call other people onto the streets to burn, wreck and damage property and people."

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See also:

06 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Soldiers back on Belfast streets
06 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Drumcree protests 'out of control'
05 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Loyalists urged to end violence
10 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
Peace boosts tourism figures
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