Was Twelfth march missed opportunity for traders?

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Hailed by some as ‘a Twelfth to remember’, Lisburn’s Orange demonstration seems to stand out in other quarters for the wrong reasons.

Chief among the complaints to emerge following last week’s cheerleading from prominent local members of the Orange Order - among them Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson and MLA Jenny Palmer - were issues with trade and toilets, namely a perceived lack of both.

While for event organisers the reverse side of the coin, however that penny was spent, is one of commercial decision on the one hand and every reasonable effort on the other, at least one man regards the Twelfth in Lisburn as less a day to remember and more “a missed opportunity” that saw the city shut up shop.

The disappointed local, who did not want to be named, said: “A lovely Summer’s day, a fantastic turnout for the Twelfth, but the vast majority of the shops were closed, including the (Bow Street) Mall.

“The town was not open for business. What a shame; the tills could have been ringing .

“I used to feel sorry for the traders, but they had a great opportunity to make money from the hundreds of spectators and visitors that the Twelfth had brought into the town.

“No doubt it’s the old attitude of chaining up the swings. No shops to open on the Twelfth? Really?! Disappointing.”

Mr Donaldson, however, stressed it had been a purely commercial decision on the part of traders themselves whether to open or close on the day.

“The Twelfth of July is a public holiday in Northern Ireland,” he said, “It may be that business-owners decided to close on the day but this was entirely a decision for local businesses; no-one would have directed them to close.

“I would have liked to have seen them open, because, with the visitors, it would have been great for them to avail of that opportunity, but having said that, their employees are as entitled to holidays as anyone else, so I suppose owners have to strike a balance.

“Certainly neither the local authority nor the Orange Order would have been involved in asking them to close; it would have been a purely commercial decision.”

Meanwhile, a Magheralave Road resident, who, again, did not want to be named, claimed to have witnessed “dozens of people urinating” at the side of Wallace Park and wanted to know where responsibility for toilet provision lay.

“Where were the mobile toilets?” they asked. “Thankfully my children were not with me. This is totally unacceptable.”

Jonathan Beattie, secretary of the Orange Order’s Lisburn district, said they and the council had liaised on the question of toilet provision, taking figures from the last time Lisburn hosted the main demonstration and then providing extra toilets, including a number along the parade route.

Organisers were also assured public toilets were to remain open, he said; it was not, however, possible to precisely determine attendance on the day and nor could planning offset “human nature” in terms of individual behaviour.

A Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council spokesperson added: “Five temporary mobile toilets, including one temporary mobile toilet for persons with a disability, were put in place by the council on its property as technical support and for convenience.

“In addition to the public conveniences placed in Wallace Park, the Council’s public toilets were open, including the pavilion toilets for individuals with and without a disability.”