Northern Ireland

Marchers protest in Belfast against G8 policies

Wide shot of anti-G8 protest Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The lunchtime protest rally in central Belfast passed off peacefully
Aerial view of G8 protest march in Belfast
Image caption An aerial view of the start of the G8 protest march in central Belfast
Protest marchers set off from Custom House Square in Belfast
Image caption The Belfast protest marchers set off from Custom House Square at 12:30 BST
Police vehicles line the route of the march in Belfast
Image caption There was a heavy police presence along the route of the march in Belfast
G8 protesters with sign
Image caption Protesters were told G8 policies were impoverishing people around the world
Aerial view of police vehicles
Image caption An aerial view of police vehicles lining a street in central Belfast
Protesters holding union flags and others holding republican flags gathered in the same area as the G8 march
Image caption Protests by loyalist and by republicans took place at the same time and place as the anti-G8 march

There was a major security presence for an anti-G8 protest in Belfast.

The rally was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ahead of next week's G8 summit in County Fermanagh.

The ICTU said one billion people were living in "extreme poverty" around the world, due to Western capitalism and the policies of the G8 leaders.

The rally passed off peacefully and no arrests were made. The Police Service of Northern Ireland said protesters started to disperse at 14:00 BST.

The anti-capitalist demonstration was staged ahead of the two-day global summit, which will see the leaders of some of the world's most powerful countries gather at the Lough Erne resort for talks.

Hundreds of police officers and scores of PSNI vehicles lined the route of the march to Belfast City Hall, and police helicopters circled overhead.

A weekly loyalist protest against a restriction on flying the union flag at Belfast City Hall also took place.

Some loyalist flag protesters jeered as anti-G8 rally speeches got under way.

Addressing protesters at the Belfast City Hall rally, ICTU chairperson Pamela Dooley said: "There is an obligation on the trade union movement and civil society to stand together to demand a different and better way."

'Corrupt capitalist system'

Ms Dooley said the G8 leaders did not have consent "to force their damaging policies on the rest of us".

She added that unemployment had risen to "unprecedented levels" on the island of Ireland.

She told the crowd that in the Irish Republic "prosperity for working people is over" while in Northern Ireland "almost one third of the population is classed as economically inactive".

"We know that we are facing the consequences of a corrupt capitalist system bereft of moral standards", Ms Dooley said.

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Media captionThere was a major security presence for an anti-G8 protest in Belfast.

"It is a system which puts profit before people and always will. It is a system for the few and not for the many."

She added that the ICTU had "credible alternative proposals which can create a fair and just world".

James Orr of Friends of the Earth said it was "time to put the long term future of the planet first - and develop a clean energy future we can all afford".

He added: "G8 nations should be taking the lead in tackling climate change, instead of driving forward policies that keep their economies hooked on dirty, damaging and increasingly costly fossil fuels.

"People across the UK, including Northern Ireland, are rightly concerned about the threat fracking poses to their communities, local environment and the global climate."

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said the G8 leaders were "undermining their credentials as global leaders due to human rights violations in their own countries".

It called on the US government to close its military prison at Guantanamo Bay and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to release jailed members of rock band, Pussy Riot.

In addition to the march, a number of concerts have taken place in Belfast and County Fermanagh.

Video messages

Image copyright other
Image caption The Lough Erne resort is cordoned off for the G8 summit

A concert in Belfast's Botanic Gardens was staged to send a message to world leaders about ending world hunger.

The Big IF concert was organised by a number of charities including Oxfam, Trocaire and Christian Aid and featured high-profile speakers and video messages from celebrities.

The artists included Two Door Cinema Club, Duke Special, Bronagh Gallagher, Prodijig, Flash Harry, and the Ulster Orchestra.

Event director Dan Schofield described it as a "fantastic, fun, family event, albeit one that has a very serious underlying message".

"People want the opportunity to make their voices heard in a positive and dignified way so that the leaders attending the G8 summit will be in no doubt that justice for the world's poor has to be top of the agenda in Fermanagh," he said.

Tim Magowan from the IF Coalition said: "Imagine if Northern Ireland became known as a place of agreement; a place where decisions were made which began the process of ending world hunger."

Meanwhile, in Enniskillen free classical music concerts were organised in advance of the G8 summit.

International opera singer Ruby Philogene led the line-up for the Songs for Saturday celebration in the afternoon.

Ruby devised a special G8 song recital of eight songs, one song from each of the eight countries involved in the summit at St Macartin's Cathedral.

Fermanagh District Council also organised a family fun day in each electoral ward as compensation for the G8 disruption.

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