‘Yellow vest’ protests held in Belfast and Dublin

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.

Protesters also demanded reform on abortion laws (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.

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.”

Meanwhile, Yellow Vest protestors have staged another demonstration in Dublin calling for the resignation of the Taoiseach.

The protest at the Custom House marks the fifth weekend in a row that anti-government demonstrators have taken to the street.

The action, sparked by similar demonstrations in France, has been repeated in Belfast and Wexford, where protests have also taken place.

- Press Association and Digital Desk

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