[Site editors note: This report grossly underestimates the turnout at the City Hall protest called by Youth against the War, though it at least does mention our protest at Omagh.]

Young people protest at war

Protests against the war in Iraq have been taking place in several towns across Northern Ireland. There were two separate demonstrations in Belfast with more than 1,000 students and schoolchildren mounting a sit-down protest, blocking the road outside Queen's University.

About 200 young people staged a lunchtime anti-war protest outside the City Hall in Belfast on Thursday, bringing traffic to a halt. Many lay down on the roadway. One juvenile was arrested for disorderly behaviour and later released. There was a low-key police presence during the demonstration. Some protesters carried banners and placards and a number were in school uniform. Bus services from Donegall Square West and Donegall Place were disrupted for a time and police put traffic diversions in place to minimise the effect of the protest.

'War unjust'

At a rally in Guildhall Square in Londonderry, the protestors, who included students, shop and office workers and local councillors, heard calls for the attacks to stop. Speakers said the war was unjust and was not being carried out on humanitarian grounds. Many attending the rally then staged an impromptu march throughout the city centre delaying traffic for an hour. In County Tyrone, about 200 pupils from schools in the Omagh area held a protest in the town centre.

Ulster Unionist education spokesman Danny Kennedy said the students and schoolchildren should not have been allowed to leave schools and colleges to take part in protests.

"Parents should not encourage it and teachers should not condone it," said the Newry and Armagh assembly member. The issue of war can be properly debated within the confines of schools. There is no need to be charging into political arenas and rallies."

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