Thousands pack Derry's Guildhall Square to show solidarity with strikers
Close to 3,000 people packed into Guildhall Square in Londonderry as part of the public sector strike across Northern Ireland.
Members of trade unions Unison, Unite, NIPSA and the Irish National Teachers Organisation set off on a march from Altnagelvin Hospital at noon, led by two pipers.
Around 500 workers made their way through the Waterside and across the Craigavon Bridge where hundreds of supporters greeted their arrival with loud cheers.
Several paramedics from the Ambulance Service who were prevented from fully participating in the day of action, joined the lunch-time rally.
Chairman of the Trades Union Council in Derry, Liam Gallagher, introduced a number of speakers on the platform from the participating unions as well as writer and activist Eamonn McCann, Jackie Gallagher from Citizens Advice Bureau and President of the Students’ Union Ryan Kelly.
Among those gathered was Damien Condren who was holding a large Unison banner.
He said: “I work in Foyle Haven, a homeless charity that helps people who are alcohol dependent. I just don’t agree with these cuts whatsoever, full stop, because of the damage it is doing to society.
“I work with the most vulnerable in society and if our places close, I would be seriously concerned about the affect on this town.”
Also out on strike was Nipsa member Sinead Brolly who works in the Waterside hospital caring for mentally ill patients.
She said: “Morale in the workplace is really low.
“We are in support services and we already have had major cutbacks which has added to the workload on ourselves; we haven’t had any pay increase or band increase even though we are doing more work.
“It reaches the point when you just have to stand up and say no.
“It is good that the ambulance staff are here and that they are standing up to management because the next time they will say, we can’t let nurses out, we can’t let anyone out by calling a Major Incident.”
Eddie Ryan, who is also from Nipsa and works in the Rectory Field nursing home, agreed.
He said: “The ambulance management were trying to break the back of the strike by calling a Major Incident.
“It was an underhand thing to do but just look at how many people turned out in support of it; it goes to show their tactic wasn’t successful.”
Not everyone who was in the Guildhall Square was a worker or a member of a union but they felt strongly that the strikers should be supported.
These included Dr Anne McCloskey who said she was fully behind her health service colleagues on the picket line and would have liked to see many thousands of people standing in support of the industrial action.
Former public sector worker Rona Lavery said: “I retired in June but I worked in the civil service for 37-and-a-half years. I fully support the strike and felt it was important to show support here.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital