Wednesday, August 24, 2005

MPH Belfast Rally Report



"I'm here because it’s about time my generation actually took some action rather than watching things on TV and thinking 'isn't that awful?' " Zoe Anderson, 26, East Belfast"

Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom. Of course the task will not be easy. But not to do this would be a crime against humanity, against which I ask all humanity now to rise up. Make Poverty History in 2005. Make History in 2005. Then we can all stand with our heads held high.... Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom."
Nelson Mandela

Thousands of people braved the changeable Belfast weather on Saturday 4th June to register their support for the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign at a rally organized by the NI coalition at Customs House Square, Belfast. The Rally was supported by an array of Community groups, Church leaders, Trade Unions, Aid agencies, students, Sports People and concerned individuals. Celebrity supporters of the campaign and musicians such as Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, Brian Houston and Talking Drum shared a platform with a broad cross-section of civil society in what proved to be the biggest rally on global poverty in Northern Ireland in recent memory.

Deborah Doherty, a spokesperson for the coalition said, “We were delighted to see a really wide range of people turn up today- there were a few thousand here. We had a colourful event- N. Ireland has truly joined the global campaign to send a strong message to Tony Blair and G8 leaders- do something in July to cancel world debt.”

People from all backgrounds and walks of life showed up at the rally at Laganside’s new development in Custom House Square. A collection of colourful banners from Amnesty, Students Against Poverty and a host of other groups added to the carnival atmosphere.

Gary Lightbody, Lead Singer of Snow Patrol, addressing the large crowd stated, “We've been heavily involved in Make Poverty History for the past year. We still see poverty still happening - you can't believe that it's still the same situation 20 years later since Live Aid. The reason is these countries are being crushed under the weight of debt. There is a solution and it's a simple one. We have to take responsibility. Our governments have to say ‘no more’. We can't go on like this. As a generation, we have to stand up and say ‘no more’. When our leaders go into the G8 summit, they have to know the whole world is demanding they pay attention to Africa and all the Third World countries.”

The rally attracted broad cross community support for the aims of MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY,

Margaret Ward, Women's Support Network said of the day "The Women's Support Network came today to support the aims of Make Poverty History because it is often women who face the harsh realities of raising families in extreme poverty. The eradication of poverty is linked to the empowerment of women and women in Northern Ireland want our voices to be heard"

"I'm here today because I think those of us who live in wealthy countries have a moral responsibility to help people in the developing world. We can't just sit back and let children die unnecessarily" Anna Lo. Chinese Welfare Association

"I'm here because it’s about time my generation actually took some action rather than watching things on TV and thinking 'isn't that awful?' " Zoe Anderson, 26, East Belfast"

We came along with our families because we think its important that we teach our children to look beyond their own lives and develop empathy with children and young people from other countries who are much less well of than they are." Anne and Hugh Moore, parents of three children, North Belfast.

"Today's older generation have had to endure ongoing poverty and discrimination and they want to show solidarity with older people across the globe who will continue to live in poverty if the aims of Make Poverty History are not met." Seamus Lynch, Help the Aged.

“Here at the East Belfast Community Development Association we deal with poverty and exclusion everyday. Of course the nature and scale of the poverty is different but the human experience is the same. We have come here to stand in solidarity with people in developing countries and to send a message to the G8 that says enough is enough" Michael Briggs, Director, East Belfast Community Development Association.

The event was addressed by a broad cross-section of Church leaders, Gary and Nathan from the Bangor band, Snow Patrol, and Binnie Mwatasungula, a representative from the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in N. Malawi who moved the large crowd as he spoke of the reality of living with Poverty. Binnie’s words brought a hushed silence as he related his experiences of a country where 49% living in rural areas have no access to clean water. The crowd was entertained by Brian Houston and his band, Talking drum and compered by BBCs David 'Rigsy' O'Reilly.

For more information on the campaign visit our website http://www.makepovertyhistory-ni.org/

MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY NI is a broad coalition made up of : Oxfam ,Trocaire, Christian Aid, Street Seen, NIPSA, NICVA, Help The Aged , War On Want, Save The Children, Concern, C of I Bishops Appeal, Tear Fund, Comhlamh, ARN, Send My Friend to School, QUB Campaigning Group, ICTU

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