Scathing commentary around ‘open and honest’ young loyalist Joel Keys branded ‘hypocritical’

Loyalists have been angered by the scathing commentary around the contribution of Joel Keys to the NI Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Jim Wilson has said.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 5:53 pm
Updated Friday, 21st May 2021, 12:22 pm
Joel Keys addressing the NI Affairs Committee at Westminster

Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) member Mr Wilson said it was hypocritical of a large number of commentators and political figures – who have repeatedly talked up the prospect of violence if checks on the Irish border were reinstated – to castigate the 19-year-old for saying he would not rule violence “off the table” as a last resort.

Addressing the Westminster MPs, in relation to loyalist opposition to the post-Brexit NI Protocol, the teenager said: “I am not sure if and when violence will be the answer. I am saying that I would not rule it off the table.”

He added: “But it worries me that we could potentially reach a point in this country, or in any country, where the people feel that they do have to defend themselves.”

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The remarks shocked committee chair Simon Hoare, and led to a barrage of cross-party criticism in Northern Ireland.

Mr Hoare described the comments as “an incredibly worrying and dispiriting answer”.

The Conservative MP later tweeted: “I was, frankly, chilled and appalled. In one so young it was doubly depressing.”

Speaking to the News Letter on Thursday, Jim Wilson said: “The attitude of some journalists and others towards young loyalists, who are being open and honest, is ridiculous.

“Remember, we had Leo Varadkar running about Europe with photographs of the [land] border, as it was during the conflict, making out that there would be violence on the streets if the border was put back there. That is the discrepancy around all of this.”

Mr Wilson said he was aware of a number of anti-NI Protocols protests being planned in different areas.

In Co Armagh, both the Markethill Protestant Boys Flute Band and the local Orange Order district officials have released separate statements in relation to recent protest parades, and the PSNI’s response, in the village.

In a statement posted on social media, Markethill District LOL No10 said: “The Orange community, both in Markethill and further afield has no difficulty in contrasting the PSNI approach to alleged public and Covid breaches in a rural unionist area as opposed to that applied in dealing with the [Bobby] Storey funeral and other incidents of republican funerals over the last 15 months.”

In a statement sent to the News Letter, the Markethill Protestant Boys Flute Band said it was “withdrawing support” for the PSNI “until a serious approach is taken to reform policing”.

In response to police notices summoning protesting band members for interview under caution, the band said: “The band would like to state publicly that until the letters are rescinded, we will no longer be co-operating with the PSNI. We will continue to submit the 11/1 for our parades, however we will not be working with PSNI to police these parades. We will instead be policing and marshalling our own parades.”

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