Thousands object to cuts in Belfast rally

PUBLIC sector workers have protested against impending cuts at a rally in Belfast.

Angry union members marched to Belfast City Hall prior to a rally on Saturday afternoon.

The gathering, organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), comes after the comprehensive spending review annouced by Chancellor George Osborne earlier this week.

Under the cuts unveiled by the coalition government, it is expected funding to the devolved administration will be reduced by up to 4 billion over the next four years.

Estimates of job losses in the province's public sector are predicted to reach up to 30,000, with thousands more in the private sector.

Among those taking part in the Belfast rally were Stormont ministers, Alex Attwood and Caitriona Ruane.

However, executive colleague, finance minister Sammy Wilson questioned the purpose of the protest.

Unions were "giving false hope to people that somehow or other by holding placards they can avoid these financial choices", he told the BBC.

Speaking ahead of the rally, Workers Party spokesperson Paddy Lynn said:

"The rally will send out a message not only to Westminster but also the local politicians at Stormont, that people will not accept carrying the burden for the excesses of the well off in society and being forced to bail out the banks for a second time," he said.

"Welfare claimants are facing 18 billion in cuts whilst the banks are to pay up just 2.5 billion - less than one tenth of one per cent of their liabilities."

Earlier this week, a war of words broke out between the Stormont and London as Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness accused the government of reneging on financial commitments and endangering thousands of jobs in the region.

However, secretary of state Owen Paterson insisted the province received a fair settlement in comparison to other regions of the UK.