People gather in Belfast to condemn Russian action in Ukraine

After the event, protesters marched through the city to gather for a vigil outside City Hall.

05 March 2022

Clerics from both sides of a Belfast community interface came together to urge peace in Ukraine at an anti-war rally in the city.

Colin Duncan, from Shankill Methodist Church, and Fr Martin Magill, from St John’s Parish church on the Falls Road, were among those who addressed the event at Custom House Square on Saturday afternoon.

Ukrainians living in Northern Ireland also gave emotional testimony at the demonstration.

After the event, protesters marched through the city to gather for a vigil outside City Hall.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
People take part in a rally from Custom House Square in Belfast towards City Hall (David Young/PA)

Mr Duncan and Fr Magill stood side by side to address the rally.

“We stand together here in unity with the people of Ukraine,” said Mr Duncan.

“What we see happening and unfolding in front of our TV sets I can’t come up with a word for it, there isn’t a strong enough word that I can think of for the horror that’s happening in Ukraine.”

Fr Magill added: “How on earth have we found ourselves in this situation, bearing in mind this world of ours has gone through two world wars, how has this been allowed to happen?”

Kateryna Kozlova, from the Ukrainian city of Kherson, told the crowds of the anxiety trying to reach relatives on the phone.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Kateryna Kozlova (David Young/PA)

“It’s the worst feeling ever when you do not know whether your family is still alive,” she said.

She condemned the attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in south-east Ukraine and warned that the world could face nuclear disaster if Nato fails to impose a no-fly zone.

“I don’t understand why Nato doesn’t close the skies, close the skies at least over the nuclear power plant,” she said.

“We are all in danger, all the people here, all the people in Europe, all the people in Asia, so please hear us.”

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, also addressed the rally.

He urged the Stormont authorities to prepare to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.

“More than a million people have now been forced to flee from Ukraine, and they need refuge,” he said.

“Protection for refugees must be offered without fear or favour, without obstacles, without discrimination and without delay.

“The European Union has rightly waived any requirement for visas and other unnecessary paperwork. The Irish government is already accepting arrivals from Ukraine. The Scottish and Welsh governments have started preparations to receive refugees.

“In Northern Ireland we must be ready to play our part too in offering sanctuary.

“The Executive needs to move on this issue urgently. We cannot simply sit and wait for the Home Office to get their act together. Preparations must start now.”

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