Farce as loyalist protest group claims credit for no one showing up to its protest
A new loyalist group which claimed to have been behind hundreds of anti-Irish Sea border posters which appeared across Northern Ireland has admitted that not a single person showed up after it called multiple protests.
The ‘United Unionists of Ulster’ (UUU) issued a statement in February which claimed responsibility for many of the posters and claimed that some of them were being funded by businessmen whose companies were financially suffering from the new trade frontier.
In a statement on Wednesday, the group demanded the collapse of Stormont and called for protests to commence at 6pm on Thursday at seven locations – despite the period of national mourning for Prince Philip.
However, on Thursday the News Letter visited three of the locations – one of which was Stormont and another was the home of a senior Irish diplomat – and found not a single person present.
When contacted yesterday, the individual who issued the statement admitted that not a single person had protested at any of the locations. However, he claimed that there had been “a last-minute change of heart, for a number of reasons I won’t go into” and insisted that the call to protest had nonetheless “served its purpose”.
He claimed that the group had “actively encouraged” people not to protest, saying: “We obviously wanted no protests, even though we had initially said we did.”
The News Letter asked why, if the protests had genuinely been called off – rather than simply flopping because the group has no support – the group did not post a message on its Facebook page to tell people to stay away.
The man claimed that there are “ongoing issues” with the page which means they “can only share posts, not post [themselves]”. However, the page, which is followed by over 700 people, was updated as recently as Wednesday.
Pressed on why the group had called people onto the streets in the first place, the man – who would not reveal his identity – said that they were “trying to contain the violence to an absolute minimum” and “trying to show leadership”.
There is a degree of paranoia within loyalism, with several loyalists claiming that unsigned messages being circulated last week calling for protest were false.
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has been one of several veteran loyalists to warn that responding to anonymous calls for protest means people “could be walking into a trap”.
On Wednesday he said: “I cannot remember a protest organised by loyalists that was not infiltrated. A couple of times it was infiltrated by people connected to the security services and the problem with that is that it takes it off in the wrong direction because it always ends in violence”.
When asked about the PUP leader’s comments, the man said that Mr Hutchinson was “right in his own context” but blamed media coverage of loyalism for why he will not put his name to their statements.
He admitted that to “an outsider looking in”, the situation “doesn’t make entire sense”.
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