TUV leader Jim Allister stops short of supporting loyalist protests asking people to ‘keep within the law and demonstrate peacefully’

TUV leader Jim Allister stopped short of supporting upcoming loyalist protests against the NI protocol.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 10:47 am
Updated Thursday, 20th May 2021, 11:19 am

News of the un-notified protests in Co Antrim have been released on social media - one is expected to take place on May 22 in Kells at 7pm.

The other is expected to take place today (May 20) at 7pm in Ballyclare.

The online posts ask those interested in attending to bring along their flutes and drums.

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Police have attended other protests advertised in the same way around Northern Ireland.

They have said they are aware of them and are monitoring footage from the scenes in NI towns.

When asked whether he would support the protests planned to take place in coming days, in a statement Mr Allister said: “I support and defend the right of people to express their opposition to the Sea Border within the law.

“The fallout from the Bobby Storey funeral and particularly the exposure of just how big a whitewash independent investigators facilitated has resulted in enormous anger within the Unionist community.

“In circumstances where the PSNI has been exposed as facilitating the largest breach of the Covid regulations since they were introduced, treating loyalist protestors as soft targets for differential action will do nothing to restore confidence in policing.

“I would, however, encourage people to keep within the law and demonstrate peacefully.”

And DUP MLA Trevor Clarke, when asked the same question declined to answer but said: “I am not sure how the police could handle any protests now given how they behaved at the funerals.

“I suppose I could say what Sinn Fein has said in that the regulations (around Covid-19) are very confusing.”

He added: “Unfortunately I think Sinn Fein and the funeral last year set the template for policing going forward.

“In terms of a protest I am not sure how police can police that protest under the coronavirus regulations because Matt Power from HMIC has said the regulations are confusing.”

The news comes after a member of the Loyalist Communities Council – an organisation which represents paramilitary groups such as the UVF and UDA – said the use of violence to oppose the protocol is not “off the table” as an “absolute last resort”.

Joel Keys made the comments in an appearance before MPs at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster yesterday.

The evidence session came after rioting linked to the protocol in April.

Responding, UUP leader Doug Beattie said “violence is never the answer” in a statement to the News Letter.

“It will lead young men to prison and a criminal record, or worse, hospital or an early grave. Those in positions of influence must do all they can to lead people on a path away from violence.”

He called for a political solution to the impasse.