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€1.8m kitty to counter flag demos in North

A CAMPAIGN to encourage people back into Belfast after weeks of Union flag protests has secured £1.5m (€1.8m) in support, the city council said.

The Backin' Belfast initiative reached the latest milestone after councillors pledged £400,000 to help its efforts to woo patrons into the city.

The Stormont Executive has already committed £600,000 and Belfast businesses have donated offers and give-aways worth £500,000 to the cause.

Parts of Belfast have witnessed disorder and rioting since the council voted in December to limit the number of days the Union flag flies over City Hall, as some loyalist protests have turned ugly.

While only a number of demonstrations have ended in violence, many more pickets have involved road blocks, which have caused major traffic disruption.

Traders claim the cumulative effect has dealt a hammer blow to footfall in the city.