UUP leader Doug Beattie’s Upper Bann running mate Glenn Barr to attend Lurgan anti-Northern Ireland Protocol rally

The UUP leader’s Upper Bann running mate in the assembly election has confirmed he will attend the anti-Northern Ireland Protocol rally in Lurgan tonight that his party leader has withdrawn from.

By Philip Bradfield
Friday, 8th April 2022, 12:17 pm
Updated Friday, 8th April 2022, 2:27 pm

Banbridge Alderman Glenn Barr, who is currently Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, says that he hopes to parade with the Orange Order in Lurgan tonight.

His party leader Doug Beattie had initially accepted an invite to share a platform with DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, TUV leader Jim Allister and loyalist activist Jamie Bryson. However he later announced he would not take part because he believed the rallies were raising tensions and could lead to young people getting criminal convictions, while he intended to continue working to resolve Protocol issues through formal channels.Mr Barr told the News Letter he hopes to attend if he finishes his election canvassing in time today.

During the interview this morning he said that his decision was conditional on getting approval from the party, but he later clarified that he had missed an earlier party message to say he was free to take part.

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UUP leader Doug Beattie and his Upper Bann Assembly election running mate Glenn Barr, who is currently Lord Mayor of Armagh Banbridge and Craoigavon Borough Council.

He has been getting “a great reception” in areas that were not normally reeptive for council canvassing, he says.

“Probably the work I have done as a councillor is standing over me and there is also a bit of a sea change from people who are fed up with the old antics of ‘vote them uns to keep them uns out’ route,” he said.

He intends to go to Lurgan tonight, but he will not be doing any public speaking, he says - just marching with his lodge. Up to 60 bands are expected to take part in the event.

Asked if he was contravening party policy to take part - or whether it was a matter of conscience - he replied that he is “not participating as in getting on the stage”.

The issue of the Protocol has not arisen during canvassing so far.

“I’ll be completely honest with you - not one person has asked me or my team on the doors about the Protocol.”

The top issues have been local problems such as the parking shortage in Scarva and the need for a play park and petrol station in Gilford.

Expressing his stance on the protocol, he says: “It is party policy that it needs to go - it needs to change. We need to be able to get our back up and running properly. But equally - staying away from the table is not going to achieve this or secure any change.” He notes that his party has already been able to get “a lot of related issues onto the table”.

The forces veteran responds that the difference is taking part on the platform as opposed to taking part in the parade. “It is what is being said that is the concern” and adds that Doug may not be equally concerned about all anti-protocol rallies.

“There are concerns there in a lot of circles, the PUL [Protestant Unionist Loyalist] especially, that they are not being listened to.

“It does seem to be the case that republicans can do one thing [as in the Bobby Storey funeral parade] and if loyalists decide to do something similar then they are the bogey man. That is probably why they are going down the route of peaceful protests.”

However he “could not believe” the heckling that DUP MP Sammy Wilson was given at an anti-protocol rally in Markethill recently. While he acknowledges the right of people to express their views, he also counters: “He is an elected MP and he is a unionist.”

Glenn also raised the issue of republicans raising mock customs checkpoints along the border to campaign against border customs posts after Brexit - which he said carried an implict threat of violence, due to the presence of masked men with replica weapons posing as terrorists. “Republicans were having protests down by the border with replica guns and that was taken literally by the EU and the British government,” he adds.

If he finishes canvassing in time today he intends to take part in the Lurgan parade - now that he has had the green light from the party.

He knows at least two to three other UUP councillors from the council whom he says are also going although he is not sure if they will be parading or spectating.

Glenn is the ABC Council’s Veteran Champion, having served as a regular and reservist member of the forces for over 18 years. He describes himself as a member of the Orange Order, Moneyslane Northern Ireland Supporter Club, Masonic Order and the West Down Somme Association. He is also a supporter of Glasgow Rangers FC and Man City. He is married to Andrea and the couple have three children, Alex, Cody and Billy.

The UUP was invited to comment.