Friday, September 17, 2021

By Rebecca Black, PA

A demonstration in east Belfast has called for an end to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Crowds holding aloft Union flags and banners which read “stop the protocol” and “uphold Northern Ireland’s sovereignty: Trigger Article 16” gathered at Templemore Avenue amid a police presence on Friday evening.

The protesters walked along the Newtownards Road to the sound of loyalist band music for a short distance before hearing a number of speeches outlining opposition to the post-Brexit arrangements.

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Loyalists during a rally against the Northern Ireland Protocol in Newtownards Road, Belfast (Peter Morrison/PA)

TUV leader Jim Allister and loyalist activist Moore Holmes were among the speakers.

The crowd heard that both DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson and UUP leader Doug Beattie had been invited to attend.

Mr Allister said the gathering proved that opposition to the protocol “is not dying down”.

He described the protocol as unionists “implementing their own self destruction”.

“If we do not kill this protocol, it will kill the union, that’s the reality,” he said.

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Loyalist activist Moore Holmes speaks during a rally against the Northern Ireland Protocol in Newtownards Road, Belfast (Peter Morrison/PA)

“This is the seminal moment, the seminal challenge of our generation and we’re going to rise to it, unless we come to that realisation then this union that binds us, that gives us all we believe in will indeed be bled to death before our eyes.

“It’s up to us, it’s up to our politicians and I leave east Belfast tonight mightily encouraged to see that people are exercised on a Friday evening to come out such as this and to say as our forefathers said, ‘up with this we will not put’.”

Mr Holmes called for the collapse of the Stormont Assembly.

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Loyalists during a rally against the Northern Ireland Protocol in Newtownards Road, Belfast (Peter Morrison/PA)

“That is the only way in which one can put maximum pressure on the protocol, to coerce the British government into taking the unilateral action that they need to take,” he said.

“Legal action, political action and … societal action must continue.

“We can wait and hope for solutions to be found by the English men but the solutions for Ulster will be found in Ulster.

“Let our voice be heard in the great halls of Westminster, let it echo in Dublin’s Dail, let it be heard in the cold walls of Stormont.

“Loyalism will not accept the Irish Sea border.”

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Loyalists during a rally against the Northern Ireland Protocol in Newtownards Road, Belfast (Peter Morrison/PA)

It is the latest in a number of demonstrations which have taken place in loyalist areas in the North.

There is significant anger among unionists and loyalists at the protocol which was agreed by the UK and EU as a way to maintain free-flowing land border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

They regard the additional checks on goods arriving to the region from the rest of the UK as a border in the Irish Sea.

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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Peter Morrison/PA)

Earlier this month, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said his party’s ministers in the Stormont Executive will resign if the UK government does not take action over the protocol.

At the weekend Mr Donaldson expressed concern there could be further unrest on the streets of the North over the protocol.

Earlier this year, there was significant disorder to which loyalist anger at the protocol was linked.

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