There ought still to be openings for constructive dialogue between non violent loyalism and Dublin

News Letter editorial of Tuesday April 6 2021:

Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 8:56 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 1:10 pm
News Letter editorial

On page 5 Billy Hutchinson (see link below) reiterates the current message that is being pushed by all the well-known older loyalist ex paramilitaries.

Violence is not the answer, he says.

Indeed Mr Hutchinson has previously mocked the notion of violence over the Irish Sea border, as have others such as the loyalist Jim Wilson. They pose the question: What do you attack? How can you be violent against the government of the country to which you are loyal?

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Plenty of people will be at best indifferent to, perhaps contemptuous of, the views of older loyalists, only associating them with their past terrorism and misery.

But it is striking that they have unwaveringly rejected violence since the ceasefires of the 1990s and the Belfast Agreement, which they all supported, given that unionism has found itself in a declining cultural and political position.

This is perhaps to a significant extent a reflection of the fact that they are older: the same generation of former Provisionals has also shown little appetite for a return to violence.

On page 18, David Campbell, who is chair of the Loyalist Communities Council, writes about the sense of frustration that there is within unionism over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which he says must go (see link below).

But he says there is no plan to threaten violence.

Mr Campbell is not a former paramilitary. On the contrary, he is a respected farmer and former Ulster Unionist MLA.

But it is telling that he contrasts the “constructive” past approach of Bertie Ahern with that of the post Brexit government led by Leo Varadkar. It was, as Mr Campbell says, outrageous to hear Dublin talking up the prospect of violence if there was any change to the land border.

London never so much as said a word back in response.

It is notable however how the current Fianna Fail Taoiseach Micheal Martin is outspoken and scathing about republican violence. With such an Irish leader, there ought still to be openings for non violent loyalists to have the constructive Dublin dialogue that Mr Campbell fears is gone.

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