Loyalist rally told that Ulster is in 'distress'

Lambeg drums being played outside the Ulster Hall on Friday night. Picture by Matt Bohill

Loyalists gathered at a rally at the Ulster Hall on Friday were told that the union flag was being displayed upside down to signify that "Ulster was in distress".

The media were once again denied access to the rally, but parts of the speeches were posted online.

The crowd of several hundred people at the ticket only event heard speeches from a number of younger loyalists.

East Belfast man Moore Holmes and Stacey Graham from north Belfast made speeches urging loyalists to unite in opposition to Boris Johnson's 'Betrayal Act'.

Nigel Dodds of the DUP along with special advisor Timothy Johnson and councillor east Belfast George Dorrian attended the rally.

TUV leader Jim Allister was seated front row at the event alongside the DUP deputy leader.

Also present were a number of senior members of the Orange Order including Grand Secretary the Rev Mervyn Gibson.

Loyalists have been voicing outrage at the planned Withdrawal Agreement that will place a regulatory border in the Irish Sea, claiming it amounts to an economic 'united Ireland'.

In the past the Ulster Hall has held significance for loyalists in times of political crises.

In November 1986, 2,000 men descended on Ulster Hall, for an invitation-only event organised by DUP to protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Journalists were denied entry to the gathering but leaflets were handed out to say that an organisation, named Ulster Resistance, was being formed as an "organised and disciplined force, which will neither bend nor budge" until the Anglo-Irish agreement was destroyed.

On September 27, 1912, on the eve of the signing of the Ulster Covenant, thousands of unionist men and women gathered at the Ulster Hall to mark the hugely significant event.

At the gathering Sir Edward Carson was presented with a yellow silk banner, reputed to have been carried by King William's troops at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

In September 2012, to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant, more than 900 loyalists gathered at the Ulster Hall for a mass rally to mark the anniversary of the historical event.

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