Anti-protocol rallies ‘must be welcoming’ for all unionists: Jamie Bryson

As protesters prepare to gather in Portadown this week for another anti-Northern Ireland Protocol rally, one of the main speakers has urged those attending to make it a “welcoming place” for all unionists.

By Mark Rainey
Monday, 21st February 2022, 4:20 pm
Updated Monday, 21st February 2022, 5:01 pm

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson made his plea after DUP MP Sammy Wilson was jeered and heckled while addressing a rally in Markethill last Friday night.

At one point TUV leader Jim Allister, who had also made a speech, intervened to appeal for the interruptions to cease.

Mr Wilson later accused Mr Allister of having “whipped up anti-DUP sentiment” during his own speech beforehand.

Sammy Wilson MP at the anti-NI Protocol rally in Markethill, Co Armagh. Picture: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Mr Bryson, who has spoken at a number of anti-protocol events, said he was disappointed at the media focus on unionist “in-fighting,” following a very large turnout for the Markethill protest.

It is not yet clear if any DUP representatives will be on the platform for the gathering at Carlton Street Orange Hall at 8pm on Wednesday night.

In a message on social media on Monday, Mr Bryson said: “Unionist in-fighting must stop. All that matters is our shared opposition to the Protocol. Rallies/protests must be a welcoming place for all unionists – it is only with broad support they will remain a success. Party leaders should all call for unity.”

He said his speech in Portadown will suggest a number of “red lines” unionist politicians should establish before re-entering a powersharing executive.

TUV leader Jim Allister addressing the anti-NI Protocol rally in Markethill, Co Armagh. Picture: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

“We face the greatest threat to the Union since NI came into being, and certainly the greatest since the Home Rule crisis, and even then what was being proposed is a minor compared to the Protocol,” he told the News Letter.

“Given the magnitude of this crisis for our very future, and the ongoing cultural war being waged against our community, it is imperative that unionists, of all backgrounds, stand together.

“Now is not the time to turn inwards, but rather to unite and expand outwards. That requires unionist parties to maintain genuine and sincere opposition – measured in substance rather than symbolism – to the Union-subjugating Protocol.

“This opposition should be rooted in one fundamental objective – to restore the Acts of Union. That leaves no room for ambiguity or fudges, nothing less than equal citizenship will be acceptable.

“However, political unionism must confront the reality that even removing the Protocol is not enough.

“At Portadown I will argue that fundamental reform of the governance arrangements is required, primarily in relation to remedying the fact that the principle of consent has been shown to be a deceptive snare.

“In addition, it can not be the case that a party which continues to be inextricably linked to a proscribed organisation is fit to be considered for Justice, or indeed any other sensitive government roles.

“As such, there will in my opinion need to be a verifiable process of decontamination to ensure that no party in government is influenced or controlled by a proscribed organisation.”

Former DUP leader Arlene Foster has also been commenting on the anti-protocol protests.

Speaking on GB News television, Mrs Foster said there was “very tangible” frustration over the protocol and called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to trigger the Article 16 exit clause without delay.

“Neither Westminster, Dublin or indeed Europe seems to be taking any notice and that’s why you see these protests becoming larger... and I have to say quite aggressive as well,” she said on Sunday.

“Sammy Wilson, who is the Brexit spokesperson for the Democratic Unionist Party, attended [the Markethill event] and he has said the way Northern Ireland has been treated by the European Union is similar to the way in which Russia treats the Crimea.

“So in other words, annexation.”

Mrs Foster added: “Some people won’t agree with that but I think what they do agree with is the fact there is no respect for the internal market of the United Kingdom, there’s no respect for the fact that we are part of the United Kingdom and should therefore be treated as such.

“But Europe continues to use these checks that are completely unnecessary because we have exactly the same rules in GB as we do in the rest of the European Union at present.

“But they continue to press ahead and I think you will see more protests at this time and indeed coming up to the Assembly election in May, things will be ratcheted up.”

Another anti-protocol rally, organised by the Orange Order’s Lecale District lodge No2, will take place in Crossgar Orange Hall this Friday (February 25) at 7.30pm.

A spokesman for the lodge said: “We are delighted to be able to welcome the leader of the TUV leader Jim Allister, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, UUP South Down assembly candidate Jill McCauley and [former Tory MEP] Ben Habib to address our rally opposing the protocol.

“We are particularly grateful that Mr Habib has taken time to travel from London for the event. His support for the unionist cause, particularly in the judicial review of the protocol, have endeared him to the people of Northern Ireland and I have no doubt that many will want to give him a warm welcome.

“The Orange Institution has been to the fore in fighting the protocol which has divided our nation and I believe that this event will serve an important propose both in keeping our politicians honest on the issue and informing the general public about the constitutional and economic impact of the protocol.”

The spokesman added: “All unionists and loyalists are most welcome to attend what promises to be a very informative evening.”

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