Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Northern Ireland's first yellow vest protest takes place in Belfast

Speakers called for a halt to public-sector cuts and the abolition of zero-hour contracts among other issues.

LIVE: Yellow vest protest at Belfast City Hall

Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Saturday, January 12, 2019

About 200 left-wing activists have staged a “yellow vest” protest in Belfast city centre.

The campaigners gathered outside City Hall to demand an end to austerity policies and action on a range of social issues in Northern Ireland.

A numbers of speakers addressed the crowd calling for a halt to public-sector cuts, the abolition of zero-hour contracts and a reversal of contentious changes to the welfare and benefits system.

Demonstrators also demanded reform of the region’s restrictive laws on abortion and an end to its ban on same-sex marriage. There were also calls for full legalisation of medical cannabis.

The yellow vest movement originated in France amid public anger at fuel tax increases.

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(David Young/PA)

It is named after the high-visibility vests – gilets jaunes – that motorists in France must keep in their cars.

The movement subsequently widened into an expression of broader anti-establishment sentiment in both France and elsewhere in Europe.

It now encompasses a diverse and often competing range of political views, with both left and right wing voices having adopted the vests as their symbol of protest.

Some have used the yellow-vest demonstrations to advocate far-right anti-immigration and anti-Islam messages.

People Before Profit Stormont Assembly member Gerry Carroll, who attended Saturday’s event in Belfast, insisted the left could not allow the far-right to hijack the movement.

“Today is a protest in solidarity with the yellow vest protest that exploded a few weeks ago on the streets of France,” he said.

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MLA Gerry Carroll addresses the crowd (David Young/PA)

“Today is in solidarity with that spirit of saying ordinary people here in Belfast and further afield stand together and get out on the streets and campaign for a range of issues.”

The West Belfast representative added: “The yellow vest movement started off as a mass movement of working people. Is it true the far-right are trying to hijack it? Yes. Should they be allowed to? No.

“If people just say the right are trying to organise, let them have it – then you are conceding the ground of discontent and anger to the far right, which is very, very dangerous and history shows where that leads to.”

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