Northern Ireland

Letters urging DUP to stand firm signed in loyalist areas amid deal speculation

The template letter campaign calling on the DUP to maintain its Stormont boycott is an initiative of loyalist advocacy group Let’s Talk Loyalism.

Letters urging the DUP to maintain its Stormont boycott are being collected from unionist areas in Northern Ireland ahead of a planned batch delivery to the party
Members of the unionist and loyalist community sign letters calling on the DUP to maintain its Stormont boycott Letters urging the DUP to maintain its Stormont boycott are being collected from unionist areas in Northern Ireland ahead of a planned batch delivery to the party (Liam McBurney/Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

Letters signed by members of the loyalist community urging the DUP to maintain its Stormont boycott are being collected from unionist areas in Northern Ireland ahead of a planned batch delivery to the party.

The “Keep Your Word” template letters have been produced by loyalist advocacy group Let’s Talk Loyalism as part of its campaign against post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The initiative has been launched amid concern within sections of loyalism about the prospect of the DUP agreeing to drop its blockade on devolution and return to powersharing.

The party has maintained an almost two-year boycott of the Stormont institutions in protest at the Brexit-linked economic barriers on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The DUP has been involved in protracted talks with the Government aimed at securing concessions on the arrangements that would address its concerns around trade and sovereignty.

It appears the DUP is approaching the moment to make a final call on the Government’s proposed measures, with speculation mounting that party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson will attempt to convince senior colleagues to back a return to powersharing.

Let’s Talk Loyalism has insisted the boycott should only be lifted once all the economic barriers created by Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol, and the subsequent Windsor Framework, are removed.

It says the DUP secured its mandate in the 2022 Assembly election with a similar stance on the so-called Irish Sea border, and has called on the party to stand by that position and not accept any deal that does not fully dismantle the contentious trading arrangements.

Lindsay Graham at Carrickfergus Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club holds her signed letter calling upon elected representatives to keep their word and remain outside of Stormont until the Irish Sea Border has been removed. Pictured date: Tuesday January 23 2024. See PA story ULSTER Letter. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Lindsay Graham at Carrickfergus Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club holds her signed letter calling upon elected representatives to keep their word and remain outside of Stormont until the Irish Sea Border has been removed. Pictured date: Tuesday January 23 2 Lindsay Graham at Carrickfergus Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club holds her signed letter calling upon elected representatives to keep their word and remain outside of Stormont until the Irish Sea Border has been removed. Pictured date: Tuesday January 23 2024. See PA story ULSTER Letter. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire (Liam McBurney/Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

One of several letter-signing sessions arranged by the group this week was held at Carrickfergus Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club.

Lindsay Graham, 40, from the Castlemara estate in the Co Antrim town, was one of those who put her signature to a letter.

“I am here because I am from a working-class unionist community and I’m a bit concerned about the political situation that’s happening in Northern Ireland at the minute,” she said.

“So I’ve come along to show my support to my fellow unionists in wanting the DUP to stay strong in their stance of not going back into Stormont.

“I signed that letter just because we want the DUP to know that we sent them in with a mandate not to go back into Stormont.”

She added: “I’m hoping that it’ll give the DUP the resolve to stand up to the Secretary of State (Chris Heaton-Harris) to show that their electorate are still behind them and nothing has changed within the unionist community in regards to our position on the protocol, or the Windsor Framework.”

Community worker and activist Jamie Lee Mogey (left) at Carrickfergus Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club, collecting signed letters from members of the unionist and loyalist community calling upon elected representatives to keep their word and remain outside of Stormont until the Irish Sea Border has been removed. Pictured date: Tuesday January 23 2024. See PA story ULSTER Letter. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Community worker and activist Jamie Lee Mogey (left) at Carrickfergus Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club, collecting signed letters from members of the unionist and loyalist community calling upon elected representatives to keep their word and remain outside Community worker and activist Jamie Lee Mogey (left) at Carrickfergus Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club, collecting signed letters from members of the unionist and loyalist community calling upon elected representatives to keep their word and remain outside of Stormont until the Irish Sea Border has been removed. Pictured date: Tuesday January 23 2024. See PA story ULSTER Letter. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire (Liam McBurney/Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

Ms Graham said she is concerned that the DUP is preparing to end its boycott, and warned the party that a Stormont return would damage it electorally.

“I feel so strongly about this issue because I feel that the principle of consent is being undermined from the Good Friday Agreement,” she added.

“I think it interferes with our constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the UK.

“I think that the protocol and the Windsor Framework is designed to strangle the life out of Northern Ireland, to strengthen ties with the Republic of Ireland and to severe ties with GB.

“I believe that it’s going to make it more attractive in the long term to trade with the Republic, and then make it more attractive to businesses and consumers to a united Ireland in the long run.

“The DUP needs to stay strong, the Secretary of State needs to take our concerns on board. We are an integral part of the United Kingdom.

“I just feel like our whole community is being undermined, I feel we are being sold down the river once again by the British Government.”