VIDEO: Fiery denouncements of cutbacks at massive rally

A multitude of trade unionists took to the stage in Belfast on Friday afternoon to deliver denouncements of cutbacks to the public sector.

Thousands turned out at the rally in the city centre at 1pm, ranging from uniformed firemen to hospital staff in fancy dress.

The rally in the city centre

The rally in the city centre

Banners for all the striking unions were on display as marchers converged on a portable stage at Donegall Square North to the sound of a live rock band.

With varying degrees of stridency, the speakers then admonished the Westminster government and Stormont’s MLAs, and called for things like the planned cut in Corporation Tax to be reversed.

The vast crowd cheered their messages, and some broke into a spontaneous chant of ‘shame on them!’.

Demonstrators dispersed by around 2pm.

Firefighters and others at the rally

Firefighters and others at the rally

Though the Belfast rally was probably the biggest across the Province, in Londonderry the head of the city’s trades council Liam Gallagher estimated that 3,500 people attended their rally in the city’s Guildhall Square.

There were also gatherings in Omagh, Enniskillen and Coleraine, as well as Craigavon.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said that roughly 8,000 had been at the Belfast rally, while police put the figure at around 6,000.

In all, seven different trade union figures (not counting the ‘compere’ of the event) took to a temporary stage to berate politicians over the cuts in public spending.

The first to speak was Brian Campfield, Nipsa’s general secretary, who told detractors it had been unions’ “civic responsibilty” to call the strike.

“We’re making our contribution to the democracy of this part of the world,” he said.

“Democracy isn’t about voting once every four or five years. It’s about manifestations of protest like this.”

To a surge of applause, he called on Stormont to scrap the planned reduction of corporation tax from 21 per cent to perhaps as low as 12.5 per cent – and this was echoed by at least one other speaker.

GMB representative Denise Walker told the audience: “We’ve been accused of plunging Northern Ireland into 24 hours of hell. Nonsense!

“It’s the Stormont cuts that are going to plunge us all into permanent hell.”

She said while no one had been able to use public transport all day, if Translink’s budget continues to be squeezed then routes will be cut and fares will have to rise sharply.

Many attacked the planned 20,000 public sector job losses currently being planned.

Though it had been estimated earlier in the week that up to 150,000 workers could take part in the day’s stoppages, the ICTU was not able to give a definitive figure for the number of workers off on strike.