Northern Ireland news

LCC renews call for peaceful protests

LCC members David Campbell and David McNary protest outside the Irish Secretariat in Belfast yesterday. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Connla Young

The Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) has renewed a call for peaceful protests during a small protest outside Irish government offices in Belfast.

Members of the group held a banner outside the city centre offices of the Irish Secretariat yesterday morning.

The LCC is an umbrella group for the Red Hand Commando, the UVF and the UDA and recently claimed none of its "associated groups" were involved in loyalist violence across the north earlier this month.

The recent increase in tension has been linked to the Northern Ireland Protocol, the funeral of Bobby Story last year and claims of two-tie policing.

Yesterday's protest was disrupted by Gareth McCord, whose brother Raymond was beaten to death by UVF in 1997. He challenged LCC chairman David Campbell and former UUP and UKIP assembly member David McNarry.

Holding a picture of his brother, Mr McCord suggested the small numbers attending the protest showed that the LCC had no support in loyalist communities.

During the protest Mr Campbell and Mr McNarry held a banner, similar to others which have appeared at locations across the north in recent days, bearing the image of political leaders including US president Joe Biden and urging them to chose either the Good Friday Agreement or the Northern Ireland Protocol.

"Political leaders are not listening - Ulster is British and this we will always maintain," it said.

Mr Campbell called for peaceful protests and urged those intent on trouble to stay away.

"There are other individuals making similar peaceful symbolic protests today throughout Northern Ireland, in London and in Dublin itself and we hope that conveys a message to anyone who is seeking violent protest to stay at home - you're not assisting our cause," he said.

Mr McNarry insisted the size of the protest at the Irish Secretariat reflected the public health situation.

"Had this been normal times David and I would have been two of a hundred thousand people on the street today and on the streets on many nights, peacefully protesting and asking for our rights to be acknowledged," he said.

Mr McNarry also called for protests to remain within the law

"I don't think anybody is asking anybody to block roads," he said.

"Our message is this is all about a peaceful, legitimate, lawful protest.

"So let's make it lawful and that is what it will be."

Last week loyalist sources suggested that the LCC represents only a minority of paramilitary groups and the majority of the loyalist violence has not been coordinated.

Several factions said not to be under its influence include the South East Antrim UDA, north Antrim and Derry UDA and several other units running through south Derry, Tyrone, Armagh and Newry.

An unnotified parade due to be held in Co Down last night had been promoted by North Down Defenders flute band, which was once described by UDA commander Dee Stitt as "our homeland security".

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