Jamie Bryson praises PSNI’s ‘impeccable’ management of loyalist protests linked to Northern Ireland Protocol - ‘sends positive message to loyalist community’

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson has praised the PSNI’s ‘impeccable’ management of protests linked to Northern Ireland Protocol this week, adding that it has sent out ‘a positive message’ to the loyalist community.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 2:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 3:26 pm

He was speaking after the majority of protests on Monday passed off peacefully, the only exception being on the Shankill Road.

Loyalist opinion leaders condemned the only violence at Monday protests - on the Shankill Road - but cannot say whether such protests - peaceful or violent - might continue.

Furniture was set on fire on the Shankill Road on Monday evening close to where a bus was set alight earlier this month.

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Loyalist rioters burn a barricade on Lanark Way, Belfast on Monday night before they attacked police with missiles.

Police attended to monitor crowds gathered across Lanark Way and the Shankill Road on the loyalist side of the nearby peace line.

Officers came under sporadic attack. Calm was restored to the scene by around 9pm.

It is understood that peaceful protests and parades took place at three housing estates in Bangor with at least 100 people attending each one - Kilcooley, Whitehill Estate and Bloomfield. A smaller protest of 20 people took place on the Clandeboye Road in the town, while some 350 people also attended a protest at Westwinds Estate in Ards.

Also on Monday, David Campbell, chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) and former UUP MLA David McNarry, held a brief protest outside the offices of Irish government officials in Belfast. It was distrupted by Gareth McCord, brother of UVF murder victim Raymond.

Mr Campbell told the News Letter he did not know who had organised Monday’s protests and could not say if or where they might continue.

“The LCC has repeatedly appealed for only peaceful and democratic protests to take place,” he said. “I would envisage protest activity continuing until the NI Protocol is changed to make it consistent with the rights and guarantees contained within the Belfast Agreement.” In March the LCC, which is supported by the UVF, UDA and RHC, withdrew support for the Good Friday Agreement due to concerns about the NI Protocol. 

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson said the north down protests were organised by the Ards & North Down Loyalist Collective, of which he is a member.

“They were described by broadcasters as ‘jovial’ with plenty of women and children taking part,” he said. Speaking about the violence on the Shankill, he added: “If a protest ends with violence you lose support from a large amount of the unionist population.

“Community workers in the Shankill are clear that people there should beware of anonymous and malicious social media accounts trying to draw people into violence at interfaces.”

He said he did not know what further protests might happen but added: “I would imagine it will organically spread throughout Northern Ireland.”

The activist - who has been very critical of police handling of public events during the pandemic - praised the PSNI management of the parades in north Down.

“The protests were very proportionately and impeccably managed by police and it was very welcome,” he said.

“There was no Tactical Support Group, no overkill, no evidence gathering cameras in our faces. It was policed by local police officers and there were many friendly exchanges. The PSNI senior management could learn a lot from this. This went a long way to send a positive message to the loyalist community in this particular area and very welcome.” 

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