Northern Ireland news

Loyalists hold further anti-Protocol protests

Members of Unionists Against NI Protocol during a white line protest outside the City Hall in Belfast on Saturday. Picture by Arthur Allison, Pacemaker

LOYALISTS held further white-line protests and demonstrations against the Northern Ireland Protocol over the weekend.

Around 100 people took part in a band parade by Cloughfern Young Conquerors around the Rathcoole estate near Belfast on Saturday.

Earlier that day, a small crowd gathered outside Belfast City Hall for a white-line picket.

On Friday evening, hundreds of loyalists also marched through Coleraine in Co Derry in a parade criticised by Sinn Féin.

Widespread protests, some of which led to rioting in several loyalist areas, were held over Easter.

Protests were paused following the death of Prince Philip but resumed late last month, including in Newtownards and Bangor, Co Down.

Loyalists are unhappy at the protocol, which has created a post-Brexit border in the Irish Sea, as well as a decision not to prosecute any Sinn Féin members over their attendance at Bobby Storey's funeral last year.

Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald claimed the protest in Coleraine on Friday was "a clear attempt to intimidate and raise tensions in the local community".

Crowds carried banners including one with the slogan 'Loyalist Coleraine Says No to Irish Sea Border'.

Loyalist bands played as people marched under Union flags.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Davy Beck confirmed the march had not been notified to the Parades Commission as required.

"Warnings have been given to participants tonight and an evidence-gathering operation is in place.

"We will review all the footage gathered and consider any suspected breaches of the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998 and the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations NI 2020."

Ms Archibald said Sinn Féin would raise the protest with the Chief Constable at the Policing Board.

"In recent weeks we have seen a number of these reckless and irresponsible protests taking place and the dangerous escalation of tensions has been very alarming," she said.

"I will be asking what evidence gathering the police engaged in and what action will be taken against the people involved.

'I am calling on all political leaders to call for an end to any illegal protests.

"The PSNI also has a responsibility to police in a proactive and preventative manner to keeps communities safe."

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Northern Ireland news