Europe is a force for peace in N. Ireland and around the world, Belfast rally told

Europe is a force for peace in Northern Ireland and around the world, a pro-Remain rally was told.

A sizeable crowd waving EU flags and carrying anti-DUP placards converged outside Belfast city hall this afternoon.

Even some of the dogs on the street bore the bloc’s blue and gold symbol.

Anti-Brexit campaigners at a pro-Remain rally at Belfast City Hall (Michael McHugh/PA).

Cross-community Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said: “We have the EU to thank for the longest period of peace and stability on the continent of Europe in history.

“The EU forced nations to compromise, forced people to come together on the big issues like climate change.

“It underpinned the peace. The EU spent money underpinning the peace right across Europe, from the fall of the Berlin Wall, which could have been chaotic, right through to the former Yugoslavia.

“Nowhere did it do that more so than right here.”

She said the Brexit debate was not about protecting the UK’s union or creating a united Ireland, as it has been characterised by some on opposite sides of the issue.

Mrs Long said: “This is about the  people of this place coming together and saying, just like the EU, we value cooperation, we value immigration, we value working together in the best interests of everyone in this society.

“That is why we value the EU, it is not just a model of cooperation, it underpins the very cooperation that we need here.”

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU by 56%.

One placard hoisted aloft in the crowd said: “56% say protect Good Friday.”

Anti-Brexit campaigners at a pro-Remain rally at Belfast City Hall (Michael McHugh/PA)

People fanned out around a stage in front of the city hall down the main shopping street, Donegall Place, to hear speeches focused on environmental, human rights, business and student concerns.

Residents of border communities who oppose Brexit were also present.

The crowd held a range of placards, including one proclaiming: “We won’t be DUP’ed” in reference to the pro-Brexit Northern Irish party’s partnership with Theresa May’s Conservatives at Westminster.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s apparent support for Brexit was referenced as a reason for Northern Ireland to reject it.

Other slogans demanded a People’s Vote, a second referendum, which another podium speaker, SDLP South Belfast Assembly member Claire Hanna, said Brexiteers should have nothing to fear from if they are so wedded to democracy.

She added: “Nobody voted to be poorer.”

John Barry, a Queen’s University professor associated with the Green Party in Northern Ireland, also attacked the Brexiteers.

He said: “They are drunk on magical thinking around making England great again and continuing the border with science fiction technology and an exaggerated sense of their importance in the world and they show no signs of sobering up.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said Brexiteers had exhibited “reckless disregard” for the people of Northern Ireland.

“They care nothing for jobs or for rights and are prepared to drive our economy over the cliff.”

- Press Association

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