East Belfast Northern Ireland Protocol protest a ‘critical moment’ in loyalist campaign

An anti-Protocol protest in east Belfast has been described as a “critical moment” that will be “used to gauge the temperature” of loyalist opposition to the post-Brexit arrangements.
An anti-Northern Ireland Protocol protest march in north Belfast in June 2021. PresseyeAn anti-Northern Ireland Protocol protest march in north Belfast in June 2021. Presseye
An anti-Northern Ireland Protocol protest march in north Belfast in June 2021. Presseye

Although agreed by both the United Kingdom and the European Union, the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol has caused an effective border in the Irish Sea, leading to significant disruption to trade.

Increased checks on goods moving between GB and NI has provoked a backlash from many unionists.

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The latest in a number of protests against the protocol, which has been organised by they East Belfast Coalition, is due to take place on the Newtownards Road on Friday night (September 17).

Moore Holmes of Let’s Talk Loyalism group told the News Letter that in addition to anger at the outworkings of the protocol, an increasing number of loyalists believe the NI Assembly is a “failed institution”.

He said: “We will see on Friday, if there is a good crowd, whether that anger and concern is still there. It is certainly my understanding that it is.

“When loyalists said that the protocol must go, they meant it. When they said that they wouldn’t tolerate an economic united Ireland, they meant it, and protests are an effective and positive way for loyalists to demonstrate their feelings”.

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Mr Holmes also said he expected all of the unionist parties to “listen intently” to the loyalist voices ahead of this “hugely defining election”.

However, he accepts that “increased political apathy” is evident in loyalist areas and that is “reflective of the belief that politics isn’t working in Northern Ireland”.

He added: “We are in our centenary year and yet it seems no unionist can get even a centenary rose [at Stormont grounds] approved. So many loyalists are now calling for the collapse of the NI Assembly as a failed institution.”

Earlier this week Mr Holmes tweeted: “This is a critical moment in the Loyalist grassroots campaign against the Protocol. The East Belfast protest will be used to gauge the temperature of the Loyalist community after infrequent protests over the summer.”

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Orange Order grand secretary Rev Mervyn Gibson is also backing the protest.

On Wednesday he tweeted: “I would encourage all Unionists, men, women & children to attend this peaceful non-party political rally to show opposition to the Protocol, which on a daily basis is ruining our economy, and forcing us towards a United Ireland. If you care about Northern Ireland please turn up.”

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