There was a palpable sense of anger, frustration and motivation today in Belfast, as just over a thousand people gathered in front of City Hall in the blistering cold and intermittent rain to stand up and show their opposition to the proposed Conscience Clause Bill, put forward by the DUP.
Representatives from Sinn Féin, Alliance Party, SDLP, Green Party, PUP, People Before Profit, as well as reps from trade unions, women’s rights groups and Amnesty International were joined by Belfast born singer/songwriter Brian Kennedy as they spelled out why they were opposed to the draconian measure.
The rally was organised by The Rainbow Project, who have led a very strong social media and press campaign against the Conscience Clause, which, if passed into law, would make it legal for business owners to refuse access to goods and services to LGBT people on religious grounds. The crowd swelled onto the main road, but were kept safe by a very capable and well equipped PSNI, who facilitated the hour long rally.
A rousing speech was given by Rainbow Project director, John O’Doherty, on the many legislative potholes that the Conscience Clause will create if passed. The mood was determined and motivated, it was inspiring to see such a strong response from across the political spectrum and the community at large to the measure.
Relative newcomers, William Ennis, of the Progressive Unionist Party and Claire Bailey, deputy leader of the NI Green Party, may be unused to addressing such large numbers of people. If so, it didn’t show, as they each laid down the law on why the DUP have overreached this time, and that with the support of the other parties represented, would see the measure ‘binned’ as William described.