Dozens of members of the recently formed Action Against Cuts anti-welfare reform group disrupted the final meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s inaugural term in a peaceful protest in the Guildhall on Tuesday.
The meeting was suspended by the Mayor, Councillor John Boyle, when protesters, some wearing masks bearing the image of Dave Johns, the English actor who played the lead role in ‘I, Daniel Blake’, Ken Loach’s scathing critique of the benefits system in England, poured from the public gallery shortly after 4 p.m.
About 30 demonstrators holding ‘Stop the Cuts’, ‘We are all Daniel Blake’ and ‘Smash Welfare Reform’ placards invaded the main body of the chamber, stood behind the Mayor and directorate, and urged councillors to join them.
Ann Donnelly, a member of Unison, read an AAC statement that was also recited at a ‘sit-in’ in the Department for Communities offices in Orchard House a fortnight ago.
Sitting in a chair vacated by the Mayor, Ms. Donnelly said: “The cuts are destroying the lives of individuals, families and whole communities across this city and district.
"At a recent meeting in the Maldron Hotel more than 200 people listened to the stories of some of those most impacted to date and the feeling in the room was one of anger. We need to take direct action against the cuts.
"The film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ showed how one man in England was devastated by the cuts. This is now happening here at an alarming rate and we will not stand for it.”
Councillors from all parties and none accepted the AAC invitation to join their protest apart from the DUP who refused, accusing the group of attempting to “bully” and intimidate”. The protest ended at 4.35 p.m.
Members of Action Against Cuts protesting in the Guildhall on Tuesday.