Grassroots unionists angry at ‘graduated response’: Berry

Paul Berry called on unionists to boycott north-south meetings
Paul Berry called on unionists to boycott north-south meetings

Grassroots unionists are dismayed at the lack of action over the ‘graduated response’ to the north Belfast parading impasse, a former DUP MLA has said.

Independent Armagh councillor Paul Berry called on Stormont ministers from the DUP and UUP to boycott north-south meetings to increase the pressure for the parade past the Ardoyne shops to be allowed through.

Mr Berry said: “When the ‘graduated response’ was announced by the united unionist leadership in partnership with the Orange leadership, the PUL community was expecting a meaningful strategy and action plan.

“To date, the only thing that happened was a six-minute protest on the 12th July and a letter read out promising a response. Whilst it was positive that there was no violence similar to the previous year there is a lot of anger that there has been no real meaningful action taken by the unionist leadership since July.”

Mr Berry said that figures provided to him showed that that over the last two years there have been 79 meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC), but just 14 meetings of the body set up to strengthen links with Great Britain, the British-Irish Council (BIC).

The independent unionist said he was “alarmed” at the number of north-south meetings.

“As a unionist who opposed the Belfast Agreement, I continue to oppose these bodies and it is regrettable that the DUP, who once opposed the NSMC, are not only propping these bodies up but they are actively involved in making them work.

“I challenge the DUP and UUP to withdraw their attendance and support for the NSMC and the BIC and show the PUL community that there actually is a graduated response strategy in place.”