Northern Ireland

Loyalists plan 'war of attrition'

Jamie Bryson has said loyalists have planned other meetings.
Jamie Bryson has said loyalists have planned other meetings.

HARDLINE loyalists claim they are planning a "war of attrition" as anger grows over what many see as a betrayal by the British government over Brexit.

Several hundred loyalists, including senior figures linked to a number of paramilitary factions, met in east Belfast this week to discuss the implications of the proposed Withdrawal Agreement that would see a border in the Irish sea and remove a unionist veto from Stormont.

The meeting at the East Belfast Constitutional Club was said by loyalist Jamie Bryson to be the first of many such gatherings, adding that the loyalist community "will never accept an economic united Ireland".

Belfast UDA leaders Matt Kincaid and Jim Spence attended the unprecedented gathering as did Stephen Matthews, the alleged leader of the east Belfast UVF.

Prominent figures from the hard-line South East Antrim UDA were also in attendance, in an unusual show of solidarity since a bloody loyalist feud in 2003 divided the organisation.

Members of the Mid Ulster UVF along with veteran members of the Red Hand Commando were also present.

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Hardline loyalists have now said they will be withdrawing from all "cross-community and cross-border work and will totally disengage from the Irish Government".

They have also said they will engage in a "war of attrition" designed to "frustrate the operation of all cross community and cross border initiatives".

One senior loyalist told Tthe Irish News that loyalist paramilitaries will continue to "watch the situation closely within the context of a clear position that they will not tolerate Boris Johnson's deal".