'Go find another country' - NI Affairs Committee chair Simon Hoare rips into loyalists responsible for 'intimidation' of female Shankill community worker

People who engaged in the "intimidation" of a panel of Northern Ireland women who presented evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) last week should "go find another country" if they are not prepared to respect the "rule of law, democracy and free speech".

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 1:25 pm

Eileen Weir, Network Coordinator of Shankill Women's Centre, Rachel Powell, Women's Sector Lobbyist and Elaine Crory, Good Relations Coordinator, were invited by the NIAC to present evidence and answer questions on Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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In response to a question put to her about the Northern Ireland Protocol, Shankill community worker, Eileen Weir, claimed propaganda seeking to paint the protocol in as negative a light as possible was "rife" in her community.

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Ms. Weir and a group of other women answered questions asked by MPs concerning Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Ms. Weir also made reference to the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), who represent loyalist paramilitary groups the UVF and UDA.

The LCC appeared before the NIAC in May during which time one of its members, Joel Keys, said he "wouldn't rule violence off the table" if the Northern Ireland Protocol remained.

Ms. Weir told the committee that none of the people she had talked to in the working class loyalist community of the Shankill told her the LCC spoke on their behalf.

Immediately after the panel of women had finished answering questions from MPs, messages concerning Ms. Weir started to appear on social media.

Some people, who claimed to be from the Shankill area, ridiculed Ms. Weir for the answers she gave, with particular reference to her comments concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol "propaganda" and the LCC.

Others questioned her credentials as a unionist and loyalist.

"Whether we agree with what everybody tells us in these committees or disagree with everything they say to us, we are a democratically accountable scrutiny committee of the House of Commons where free speech and democracy are our hallmarks," said NIAC chair, Simon Hoare, MP.

"On behalf of the committee, I want to say, that the intimidation, if you will, of those witnesses on social media, by those who should hang their heads in shame.is not acceptable."

Ms. Weir added: "I know those witnesses and others will not be cowed from speaking truth onto power and as far as I am concerned and as long as I am in the chair, no voice will be silenced from giving their thoughts and opinions on topical issues as they affect Northern Ireland

"For those who want to take a different view, I suggest they go and find a country where the rule of law, democracy and free speech are not the hallmarks that we all cherish."

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