‘We need to be on the streets to stop benefit cuts’, protest told

Protesters gathered in the city centre at the weekend.
Protesters gathered in the city centre at the weekend.
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Protestors have called for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be halted before it hits Derry in the New Year.

The Stop the Cuts Campaign held a protest on Saturday in Derry city centre in protest at the impact of the Universal Credit to date, ahead of its planned arrival in Derry in two stages on January 17 and February 7.

The protest at the weekend was supported by local trade unions, anti-cuts groups, disability rights activists and women’s rights campaigners.

Those gathered were addressed by former People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann and Independent Councillors Gary Donnelly and Darren O’Reilly. The protest was also addressed anonymously by a person facing an upcoming Personal Independence Payment assessment, who said: “As of December 31, 2017, I will no longer be in employment. The realities of my new life meant I sought out help and support from community organisations. I was advised to apply for PIP and ESA. My life, as I knew it, has completely changed. Instead of having the space to get my head around the huge changes in my life, I’m spending it absolutely freaking out about my upcoming PIP assessment. Instead of being able to reduce my stress to decrease the painful flare-ups, literally on doctor’s orders, this heartless government are actively increasing my stress to a level that is beyond self-management. I am panicking and worrying about how I will be able to afford to live if I’m turned down for PIP.”

Derry Unite representative and Derry Trades Union Council member Patrick Harkin said: “We must stand tall and make our voices loud so that this Tory government knows that enough is enough!”

Speaking about benefit caps and the so-called ‘two-child policy’ woman’s rights campaigner Goretti Horgan said “Mitigations aren’t enough. Now doctors are reporting seeing children who are malnourished; children’s mental health suffers because of growing up hungry in a cold house; babies are increasingly being admitted to hospital with hypothermia – and all this in a country that is wealthy.”

Health worker Fiona Gallagher meanwhile said: “Fifty years ago we took to the streets for our rights. I’m astonished we are going to have to do this again.”

Disability rights campaigner Tony O’Reilly said: “Benefit cuts will make the lives of people with disabilities much harder. We need to rise up. We need people power. We need to be on the streets to stop benefit cuts and all the cuts we’re facing.”

Speakers at the rally announced the Derry Trades Union Council is organising a lunchtime rally on February 7th in Guildhall Square to oppose the introduction of Universal Credit in Foyle.