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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Belfast protesters press for peace
Protesters gather for a rally against sectarianism in central Belfast
It was the second rally in the city in the past six months
Several thousand people have taken part in a rally against sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

The demonstration, at Belfast City Hall, was called in response to the murder of a Catholic teenager, Gerald Lawlor, almost two weeks ago.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions urged the council to take the lead on sectarianism after the murder of the 19-year-old father-of-one.

Belfast City Council signalled its approval for the public protest after a special meeting.

A one-minute silence marked the demonstration's start shortly after 1300 BST on Friday.

Belfast Lord Mayor Alex Maskey
Alex Maskey: Called for an end to sectarianism

Addressing the rally, Belfast Lord Mayor Alex Maskey said to do nothing was not an option for the council.

"This is a day when we say to those engaged in sectarianism please stop," he said.

The demonstration had added significance following the murder of 51-year-old David Caldwell at a Terratorial Army base in Londonderry on Thursday.

Bob Gourley, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Northern Ireland Committee chairman also addressed the crowds.

He said: "The evil purveyors of bigotry have declared war on us all and wished to ensure that the legacy of hatred continued."


Street violence, blatant sectarianism and the recent murders are to be utterly condemned

Nigel Smyth CBI director

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan said he hoped the rally would show the victims of violence that the community supported them.

"I also hope it sends out a message to those who continue to prosecute violence that they may be able to hurt us but they will never divide us."

Nigel Smyth, the director of the Confederation of British Industry, said people had a right to live free from intimidation and violence.

"Street violence, blatant sectarianism and the recent murders are to be utterly condemned."

The rally was supported by the four main churches in the province.

Michael McGimpsey: Ulster Unionist MLA
Michael McGimpsey: Encouraged by the turn out at the rally

The Reverend Alan Harper, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Connor, representing the leaders of the four main churches in the province said they stood together to challenge hatred, bigotry and sectarianism.

"We stand for respect for diversity, respect for freedom of conscience, the right to live free of fear and threat."

Ulster Unionist Party assembly member Michael McGimpsey said he was encouraged by the number of people who attended the rally.

"They set a mood within society and it's vital we keep reiterating this message that we wont tolerate this violence," said the culture minister.

A similar protest was staged in January in the wake of the killing of Catholic postman Daniel McColgan - and attracted more than 30,000 people.

His mother, Marie McColgan, urged the public to turn out in force for Friday's event.

The Democratic Unionist Party refused to send representatives because of the presence of the Lord Mayor, a Sinn Fein member.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Denis Murray reports
"This is a divided society: but both sides came to make the same point"
BBC NI's Tara Mills:
"The message from the platform went out loud and clear"
Lord Mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey:
"We in Belfast City Council are pledged to lead a sustained campaign against sectarian violence"
See also:

24 Jul 02 | N Ireland
23 Jul 02 | N Ireland
22 Jul 02 | N Ireland
22 Jul 02 | N Ireland
29 Jul 02 | N Ireland
02 Aug 02 | N Ireland
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