G8 summit: Jim Broadbent calls for action on tax avoidance to tackle world hunger as protesters gather in Belfast

Around 2,000 people march through Northern Irish capital before meetings begin on Monday
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Oscar-winning actor Jim Broadbent today called on the G8 leaders to end world hunger by tackling tax avoidance.

The star of Iris also appealed for the world's richest countries to examine how they distribute aid, after Broadbent joined 2,000 anti-poverty campaigners in the pouring rain for a concert in Belfast's Botanic Gardens, where he recited a poem to the crowd.

Addressing the crowd, he said: “With so many people turning out, even on a day like today, it shows there is an enormous will to get people to listen to the issues and to correct what is clearly not right.

“I would like them (world leaders) to redress some of the tax issues where the biggest companies are not paying the tax that they should be and how the aid is distributed.”

Broadbent then performed Seamus Heaney's poem on Ireland's Great Famine, For the Commander of The Eliza.

The Big IF concert was organised by a range of charities including Oxfam, Trocaire and the Enough Food For Everyone If campaign.10,000 are believed to have attended the event.

Police estimated that around 2,000 people took part in the march through Belfast, before gathering to hear speeches in front of Belfast City Hall.

The march was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions ahead of next week's G8 summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland and left Custom House square amid a major security presence. Hundreds of protesters, demonstrating over a variety of issues, braved torrential rain as they walked through streets.

Hundreds of public order police officers flanked the route with scores of fortified four-wheel-drive vehicles also parked up, whilst police helicopters circled overhead.

Amnesty International supporters carried “Putin Stop Jailing Free Speech” placards and the Connolly Youth Movement proclaimed No War but Class War Fight G8. A group of demonstrators attended in orange jump suits and others carried an Israeli “wall” made of cloth. Members of the Socialist Party chanted: “David Cameron, Thatcher's son, we will fight you, we will win.”

At the end of the march, peace activists, environmentalists and trade unionists gathered for speeches at Belfast City Hall to demand a fairer world free of poverty, human rights abuses and environmental degradation.

Amnesty International's Patrick Corrigan said: “Don't think the children of Syria are crying out for more G8 guns and missiles, the children of Syria want the same as the children of Northern Ireland, they are crying out for peace.”

In a reference to the jailing of the Pussy Riot demonstrators, he

said: “Some of us may not look it, but this is a punk city.”

Around 100 loyalists congregated near the gates of the landmark building with around the same number of police officers forming a human barrier to ensure they were kept apart from the anti-G8 rally.

Whilst the march continued, David Cameron secured agreement from Britain's network of overseas territories and Crown dependencies to sign up to a new clampdown on tax avoidance.

During talks held at Downing Street ahead of next week's G8 meeting, the leaders all agreed to a series of actions aimed at promoting transparency and exchange of information between tax jurisdictions.

The Prime Minister hailed the agreement as a “very positive step forward” which would strengthen his hand in talks with the other G8 leaders, where he has made improving international tax compliance a key issue.

“Let's be clear why this tax issue matters. If companies don't pay their taxes or individuals don't pay their taxes we all suffer as a result,” he said.

“It is important we are getting our house in order. What the Crown dependencies - places like Jersey and the Isle of Man, and the overseas territories - places like the Cayman Islands - have signed up to is basically the existing and the new standards for exchanging tax information. That is absolutely vital.

“It is a very positive step forward and it means that Britain's voice in the G8 and the campaigning on this issue around the world for proper taxes, proper companies and proper laws ... will be stronger.”

Additional reporting by PA