Calls for calm made after ‘faceless ‘loyalist’ trolls’ issue mass appeals to attend fashpoint protests on social media

‘Faceless ‘loyalist’ trolls’ have been urging protestors to attend flashpoint protests in Belfast, on social media, it has emerged.

Monday, 19th April 2021, 8:28 pm

Belfast community worker Isaac Andrews said he will be working “all day today” to quell tensions after “numerous appeals were over the weekend on social media by faceless loyalists to assemble at flashpoints”.

Mr Andrews said that ‘unofficial protests are also being held in Bangor and Donaghadee’ and he understood that ‘other protests have been been organised in the country outside Belfast’.

He said that numerous posts were added and then deleted from social media over the weekend.

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“Calls for people to meet at Lanark Way have been issued on these faceless media accounts but I am working hard to try to dispel that,” he said.

“It does not take much at the minute for these things to heat up.

“Social media posts on the protests are attracting a lot of attention, but I would be hopeful this does not take place.

“I will be workng all day to calm tensions around the interfaces and try to reassure people that this won’t happen tonight.

Anti Northern Ireland Protocol and Irish Sea border posters appear in different locations around Belfast. There has been ongoing protest by Loyalists one the changes which were introduced following BREXIT at the start of the year. A poster pictured on Dee Street, beside the a Titanic mural, in east Belfast. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

“Residents in the area are scared it will be a repeat of what happened the other night.

“I believe there will be more and more protests over the summer.

“But people will start putting their name to it and keeping it peaceful.

“It takes one person to go out there and say something and it can all kick off.”

Loyalist anti Northern Ireland Protocol and Irish Sea border protest at the Irish Secretariat on Linehall Street in Belfast City Centre. The protest led by David Campbell(left) and former UUP MLA David McNarry(centre) was interrupted by victims campaigner Gareth McCord(right). Gareth's brother Raymond, who he holds a picture of, was murdered in 1997 by the UVF. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Earlier when asked if were aware of any planned protests Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “Police were in attendance at a small protest and counter protest in Belfast City Centre this morning.

“There were no issues detected.

“We are also aware of commentary circulating on social media about potential protests.

“I would appeal to anyone who is considering organising a gathering to be mindful of the current Health Protection Regulations and the risks of successfully managing large numbers of people in public spaces.

Community worker Issac Andrews stands on the Springfield Road in west Belfast where last week he witnessed violence of a ferocity that he hadn't seen since the early days of the Troubles in 1970s. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

“I would also ask all of those with influence in communities to continue to engage and work with us to maintain calm and ensure safe spaces for all.

“If anyone has information relating to illegal protests or gatherings they should contact their local police on 101.”

Earlier Mr Andrews described seeing scenes of violence in Belfast at Lanark Way as being of a ferocity he had not witnessed since the start of the Troubles.

He was on the scene on the Springfield Road two weeks ago as the PSNI used water cannon to quell crowds for the first time in six years.

Trouble flared following a loyalist protest at the peace wall gates at Lanark Way on Wednesday April 7 following successive nights of protests, some of which ended in violence, across Northern Ireland.

Scores of police officers were injured after being attacked with petrol bombs, fireworks and stones.

Loyalist anti Northern Ireland Protocol and Irish Sea border protest at the Irish Secretariat on Linehall Street in Belfast City Centre. The protest was led by David Campbell(right) and former UUP MLA David McNarry(left). Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

While loyalists clashed with police on one side of the gate, nationalist crowds were involved in clashes on the Springfield Road on the other side.

Mr Andrews, who works with loyalist communities, described seeing over 100 people on the Springfield Road and he rushed to close an open pedestrian gate at the Workman Avenue, a short distance along the peace wall from Lanark Way.

He said he came under attack as he prevented them gaining access to the Shankill, before republican community worker Sean Murray joined him and they did their best to secure the area.

“I was basically surrounded by about 150 nationalists who were trying to get through the gate to get into the unionist area, it was me singly trying to get a gate locked,” he told the PA news agency.

“The Workman Avenue pedestrian gate had been left open in the midst of everything that was happening at Lanark Way.

“I was attacked two or three times with bottles, bricks and planks of wood thrown at me.

“Five or 10 minutes into that, I heard someone shouting from the other side of the road which happened to be Sean Murray, and I was shouting back to him to help.

“Shortly after police arrived and after that the keyholder arrived.”

This morning the Loyalist Communities Council held a protest outside the offices of the Irish government secretariat.

The protest led by David Campbell(left) and former UUP MLA David McNarry(centre) was interrupted by victims campaigner Gareth McCord. Gareth’s brother Raymond, who he held a picture of, was murdered in 1997 by the UVF.

Loyalist anger at the Protocol has been cited as one of the main factors behind the violence that erupted earlier this month.

Another was the decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Fein members for Covid-19 breaches after they attended a mass republican funeral during the pandemic.

There are also more long-standing concerns held by some loyalists that they have missed out on the gains of the peace process in areas such as jobs, investment and housing.

Nationalists reject the contentions and insist their communities experience just as many problems with poverty.

It comes after calls were made for no protests until after the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh on Saturday.

“As a mark of respect following the passing of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, all scheduled Loyalist protests should be postponed forthwith, in order that the community may observe a period of mourning. #GodIsMyHelp,” said a Tweet on April 9 from The Purple Standard.

However another post last night said: “The protest resumes against the Northern Ireland Protocol, in Northern Ireland and Great Britain #PoliticalLeadersNotListening”.

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Loyalist anti Northern Ireland Protocol and Irish Sea border protest at the Irish Secretariat on Linehall Street in Belfast City Centre. The protest was led by David Campbell(right) and former UUP MLA David McNarry(left). Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye