Violence is not the answer to NI protocol, says new UUP leader Doug Beattie
Violent action to oppose the Northern Ireland Protocol will “lead young men to prison, hospital or an early grave”, the UUP’s leader-elect Doug Beattie has warned.
He was speaking after a member of the Loyalist Communities Council – an organisation which represents paramilitary groups such as the UVF and UDA – said the use of violence to oppose the protocol is not “off the table” as an “absolute last resort”.
Joel Keys made the comments in an appearance before MPs at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster yesterday.
The evidence session came after rioting linked to the protocol in April.
Responding, Mr Beattie said “violence is never the answer” in a statement to the News Letter.
“It will lead young men to prison and a criminal record, or worse, hospital or an early grave. Those in positions of influence must do all they can to lead people on a path away from violence.”
He called for a political solution to the impasse.
“The prime minister must engage with political parties and I reiterate the call I made previously for party leaders to meet to discuss our alternatives to the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he said.
“We must show that politics can provide solutions rather than dismiss the genuine concerns of unionists and the loyalist community.”
Mr Keys, 19, had been asked about a post he made online on April 12, that stated: “To say violence is never the answer is massively naive, sometimes violence is the only tool you have left.”
Asked if he stood by the comments, Mr Keys replied: “I would stand by the comments.
“You know there are certainly certain circumstances where violence is the only tool you have left.
“For example, I don’t think the people living under Kim Jong Un’s sort of dictatorship is going to get anywhere with peaceful protests anytime soon.”
He was then asked specifically about the use of violence were the Northern Ireland protocol to become “embedded” and deemed to be working by the UK government and the EU.
He said: “I am not sure if and when and violence will be the answer.
“I’m just saying that I wouldn’t sort of rule it off the table.”
Put to him that his answer was “incredibly worrying and dispiriting”, Mr Keys replied: “Well, let me make it clear.
“I’m no fan of violence, I think that it has to be an absolute last resort.
“But it worries me that we could potentially reach a point in this country, or in any country, where the people feel that they do have to defend themselves.