Belfast City Hall peace gathering gives everyone the feeling we’re not all powerless
They came in their hundreds to stand side by side in front of Belfast City Hall.
United by peace and deep frustration over Union flag protests, these noisy demonstrators sent out a strong message on behalf of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.
Alison Anderson (51), a lecturer from Jordanstown, said she wants the younger generation to grow up in a peaceful and stable society.
“We attended the peace gathering before Christmas too,” she said.
“I think it’s time for people to stand up and say ‘no’. We don’t want to go back to the ’70s that I grew up in. We want a better life for our children. My children have been raised in more peaceful times and I think the politicians need to take some action.
“I think they have been derelict in their duties; they haven’t come out strongly enough against the violence.
“People have the right to protest about their feelings about the flag peacefully, but the violence has to stop and I think the politicians need to take a very strong line on that.”
Health service IT worker Brendan Quinn (30) said: “A lot of people think what is going on is nonsense. We are well aware there are problems, but these protests are not the way to go about it.
“I understand from the protesters’ aspects where they are coming from and why they are doing it, but obviously it’s not the way to go.
“A lot of people I have talked to have said they never noticed the flag up there before. I’ve had people coming over from England and it embarrasses me.”
Emily Gallagher (36) from Belfast runs an after-school group for autistic children and helped marshal Sunday’s demonstration. She said: “It’s not just about the flag issues, we are saying no to all types of violence.
“The street protests that have been going on lately have been affecting everybody, including our after-school club. I don’t know what the solution is, but everyone needs to come together to talk soon, because this has been going on for far too long.”
Paul Currie (38), a community artist from Newtownabbey, organised the first peace gathering.
“We are tired of the violence in this country,” he said. “It’s painting us in a bad light, after 15 years.
“As a community artist I have spent the last 15 years working on cross-community projects.
“I even do the Orangefest. I perform stilt-walking and street-performing for the people afterwards and it’s been getting better and better over the last few years.
“We’re going backwards and it’s embarrassing for everybody.”
Psychotherapist and consultant Annette MacArtain-Kerr , who is originally from Dublin but has been living in Belfast since 2000, said: “I really strongly believe in peace.
“It’s been peaceful since I’ve been up here, so the violence is very sad to see.
“I also have to commend the Belfast Telegraph for its coverage of everything that has been going on over the last month.
“The paper has done brilliantly; the editorial has been very forthright.”
Damian Higgins (34), a recruitment consultant and musician from west Belfast, said in recent days he has felt confined to his home because of the violence.
“It just feels like you want to do something, when you’re locked in your house,” he said.
“Something like this just gives everyone here the feeling that they’re not powerless and that they have a voice and there is something they can do.”