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Low turnout for peaceful protest

Published 20/01/2014

Brian Campbell

It was described as a "casserole" demonstration to drum up support for the Haass proposals but yesterday's gathering outside Belfast City Hall failed to whet the appetite of too many. About 50 people turned up at noon for the "peaceful protest for political compromise", culminating in five minutes of noise -- mostly made by banging on saucepans. There were no speeches or banners, so bemused shoppers walked by not knowing what the event was in aid of.

One of the organisers, Mick McEvoy from Omagh, said people want to see compromise and progress.

"It was inspired by a rally outside City Hall around this time last year, during the flag protests. But this time it was inspired by the conclusion of the Haass and O'sullivan talks without any agreement," he said.

Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin OMuilleoir was clapping from the sidelines, while Green Party North Down councillor John Barry was in the middle of the action.

"This is all about arguing for compromise after the Haass talks. The people who came today are just a small sample of those people who are fed up with our political class not being able to do what is a reasonable deal. I've read the Haass proposals and I can see nothing anti-unionist in it," said Mr McEvoy.

He said he was disappointed by the turnout yesterday.

"I suppose cynicism has crept in, even for gatherings like this which are positive and not party political.

"A lot of people just feel 'what's the point?' and feel disillusioned but I would argue against that.

"We need to move the process on and we can't allow a vacuum to be created."