Northern Ireland news

Secretary of State meets UDA and UVF representatives over Brexit concerns

Secretary of State Julian Smith has met with loyalist representatives in relation to Brexit concerns.

SECRETARY of State Julian Smith has met representatives of loyalist paramilitary groups to discuss the Brexit withdrawal agreement and legacy arrangements.

He hosted a reception for leading figures including representatives of political and community organisations linked to the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando.

The meeting at the secretary of state’s official residence at Hillsborough shortly after Christmas – prior to the murder of Glenn Quinn in Carrickfergus – was attended by around a dozen leading loyalists. The main issues raised are believed to have been loyalist concerns at British prime minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit withdrawal agreement which potentially places a border in the Irish Sea. Troubles prosecutions and loyalist concerns at what they claim is a one-sided legacy process were also raised.

A source said Mr Smith was keen to meet a range of people, including fringe organisations, to be up to speed and properly informed about outstanding political issues.

‘Stop the Betrayal Act’ town hall meetings organised by loyalists before the general election were said to have caused concerns in Downing Street, which is keen to avoid unrest associated with the passing of the withdrawal agreement later this month.

On Sunday Mr Smith met Irish-language lobby group Conradh na Gaeilge. TUV leader Jim Allister accused him of “pandering” to the organisation and giving it “special treatment”.

Read More: PSNI warning over loyalist port Brexit protests

A British government spokesperson told The Irish News: “The secretary of state continues to engage with a range of groups and individuals from across the community around the latest political developments.”

The British minister hosted a reception for leading loyalists, including representatives of political and community organisations linked to the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando.

The meeting took place at the Secretary of State's official residence at Hillsborough shortly after Christmas - prior to the murder of Glenn Quinn in Carrickfergus - and was attended by around a dozen leading loyalists.

The main issue raised was believed to be loyalist concerns at Boris Johnson's Brexit withdrawal agreement which potentially places a border in the Irish sea.

The issue of Troubles prosecutions and loyalist concerns at what they claim is a one sided legacy process were also raised with the Northern Ireland minister.

A source said Mr Smith was keen to meet with a range of people, including fringe organisations, to be up to speed and properly informed about the outstanding political issues.

A number of 'Stop the Betrayal Act' town hall meetings organised by loyalists prior to December's general election was said to have caused concerns in Downing Street, which is keen to avoid any unrest associated with the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement later this month.

A UK government spokesperson told The Irish News: "The Secretary of State continues to engage with a range of groups and individuals from across the community around the latest political developments".

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