Northern Ireland news

'No mood' for loyalist protests after death of Prince Philip

Loyalists clashed with police in north Belfast last week
Connla Young

Loyalist protests are likely to be postponed until after the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral on Saturday.

Unionists are angry at the Northern Ireland Protocol and a decision not to prosecute Sinn Féin members who attended Bobby Storey’s funeral last year.

Trouble broke out on Good Friday April 2 and continued nightly until Friday April 9, the day Prince Philip (99) died.

Nearly 90 police officers were injured during serious rioting in Belfast, Derry, Coleraine, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Ballymena.

There were calls for calm from the governments in London, Dublin and Washington and water cannon was used for the first time in six years.

Loyalist sources suggest that much of the violence was not centrally organised or coordinated.

However, with the exception of Tigers Bay in north Belfast, all violence ceased following the death of Queen Elizabeth’s husband.

A prominent loyalist spokesman has said there is little appetite for further protests within the unionist community since the death of Prince Philip.

“I would say the mood within the community is now is not the time to protest, now is more of a time for mourning,” Moore Holmes told The Irish News.

“Instead of an ‘Irish Sea border’ sign in your hand it should be a glass to raise a toast to Prince Philip.”

Mr Holmes said “the grass roots nature of this means that nobody is in control” but he believes there will be a resumption of protests at some stage, although it is not clear when that will happen.

He was speaking as Ireland's Church leaders came together last night to call on the Stormont Executive to make a joint approach to the British government and EU about challenges posed by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Expressing support for the PSNI following violence across the north, they also appealed to political leaders "to come together in a unified response to the heartbreaking scenes witnessed on our streets last week and renew their commitment to peace, reconciliation and the protection of the most vulnerable".

First minister Arlene Foster said yesterday that unionist leaders need to have “difficult discussions” with loyalists who “think that politics has failed them”.

The DUP leader was speaking after party chair Lord Morrow warned that the situation for loyalism was “of equal seriousness” to the 1974 workers’ council strike and the Anglo-Irish Agreement a decade later.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill described Lord Morrow’s remarks as “a nonsense”, saying: “What unionism requires is strong civic leadership and personally I think that that is absent in many respects.”

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