Twaddell figure says deal needs ‘people on ground’

Gerald Solinas
Gerald Solinas

Whatever deal (if any) emerges out of the talks at Stormont, one of the leading spokesmen for the Twaddell loyalist camp in Belfast has indicated it will have little impact on them.

Gerald Solinas, 39-year-old secretary of Ballysillan LOL1891, said any agreement that is reached will have to be implemented by “people on the ground”.

His lodge was one of a trio which was barred from returning on the Twelfth in 2013, prompting the establishment of a protest camp in north Belfast.

This ban was reaffirmed again this year.

When it comes to securing a deal on the issues which the talks were designed to address – flags, the past, welfare and the budget, and parades – he said last night: “As somebody who is going to have to deliver any such deal, no-one has come to speak to us...

“There’s no working-class representation in these talks. Does middle and upper-class unionism expect to go into these dirty deals and expect working class people – community workers and leaders – to deliver it when they’ve had no say in it whatsoever?

“I couldn’t see it having any impact on anything.”

He said things like welfare and dealing with the past are going to be working-class issues.

He added: “It’s quite rude for people to go and broker deals on behalf of a large section of the community without asking them or consulting with them...

“Dealing with the past? Who’s going to ‘deal with the past’? It’s certainly not someone who sits in the leafy suburbs of Banbridge. It’s going to be people on the ground.”

As well as resulting in the setting up of the loyalist camp at Twaddell Avenue, the refusal to permit return parades during the Twelfth also led to unionist politicians refusing to negotiate over the issue of marches until the north Belfast situation is solved.

The TUV and Ukip had hit out at the UUP and DUP earlier in the month, claiming that they had broken the commitment not to negotiate over parades.

This was rebutted by the DUP which said neither it nor the UUP had been negotiating on parades as part of the current talks process; rather, they had “made clear our position on parades in order to ensure the government papers reflect our views”.

Mr Solinas said he regards this as “utter nonsense”.