Belfast Telegraph

London austerity protest: Martin McGuinness brands government 'cabinet of millionaire spongers'

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has branded David Cameron's government as a 'cabinet of millionaire spongers' as he joined tens of thousands of demonstrators in London for a protest against Government cuts.

The Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, told the rally: "Sinn Fein will not do Tory austerity. Unlike the Tory millionaires, I live in the heart of the proud working class community of the Bogside in Derry.

"The people the Tories are targeting are my friends, my neighbours, my family. They are fine, hard-working, proud and decent - just like our people in working class unionist communities.

"They are not parasites or spongers. It is Cameron's cabinet of millionaires who are the real spongers given free rein to live out their Thatcherite fantasies at the expense of ordinary, decent communities throughout these islands.

 "Austerity is devastating these communities. The working poor, public sector workers, the disabled and the vulnerable are the hardest hit by this bankrupt and ideologically driven policy."

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Singer Charlotte Church branded austerity "unethical, unfair and unnecessary".

Families, students and campaigners from all over the country descended on London for the march, which began in the heart of the financial district and snaked its way to Parliament.

Led by a brass band trio, they waved placards, blew whistles and chanted their opposition to the Conservative Government and its plans for billions of pounds of cuts.

Among them were comedian Russell Brand and singer Church, who brandished an End Austerity Now placard.

She said: "I'm here today in a show of solidarity with everyone here - it is a massive turnout - everybody who thinks that austerity isn't the only way and thinks it is essentially unethical, unfair and unnecessary."

Asked if she was inspired by the surge of the Scottish National Party she said "absolutely".

The 29-year-old added: "But I think that the Scottish have been able to galvanise themselves against the Westminster elite.

"We are in one of the richest nations in the world and social inequality is unacceptable.

"I'm immensely proud to be here. I think this is a brilliant movement and it is for the common good. We are here to make a stand."

Speakers including Labour London Mayoral hopeful Diane Abbott addressed the crowds before they set off for the Palace of Westminster.

Organisers promised a "festival atmosphere" and the march kicked off to the sounds of drum bands.

But a loud boo erupted through the crowd as it arrived outside Downing Street and a red flare was set off, filling part of Whitehall with thick scarlet smoke.

Protesters, some clad in goggles and with scarves wrapped around their face to conceal their identity, chanted their opposition to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Another demonstrator waved a model of Margaret Thatcher's head on a stick.

Many trade unionists and public sector workers were among the crowd.

Sian Bloor, 45, a primary school teacher from Trafford, near Manchester, warned that children "are being robbed of their childhood" because of swingeing Government cuts.

She said: "We have seen a huge impact on our work at primary school.

"I regularly bring clothes and shoes for children and biscuits for their breakfast, just so they get something to eat.

"You can see how children are being affected by the cuts.

"Children come into school concerned because they are being thrown out of their house and have nowhere to live for the umpteenth time that year because their parents' benefits are being cut.

"They are being robbed of their childhood."

Organisers said an estimated 250,000 people were on the march.

A spokesman for the People's Assembly, which is organising the protest, said: "It is clear this march has exceeded all expectations.

"Even the police are estimating that there are 'several hundred thousand' marching. Today is not the end of our campaign against austerity but the start of a mass movement prepared to take on this government."

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, told a rally at the end of the march: "If they think they won the war of austerity on May 7 they better think again.

"If they thought on May 8 that we were going to disappear then they better think again.

"Our fight goes on to protect our communities, to defend the vulnerable, to expose spivs and speculators and tax avoiders."

Hundreds of protesters braved the rain to march against austerity through the streets of central Liverpool.

Activists walked behind a large banner which read "£NOUGH IS £NOUGH" and chanted "They say cut back, we say fight back".

They stopped to boo McDonald's and HSBC in what was described as a "standing protest" against the fast food chain and banking giant.

Organisers were hoping for up to 600 people to take part b ut the figure was closer to 250 to 300, according to reports.

There were also a rally in Glasgow.

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