Northern Ireland news

Orange Order facing calls to snub the Parades Commission over protocol

Rev Mervyn Gibson
Connla Young

A leading figure in the loyalist protest movement has urged the Orange Order to snub the Parades Commission in an act of "civil disobedience" as anger continues to grow over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Jamie Bryson made the comments days after warning that the north is heading towards a "long hot summer" as loyalist fury over the Irish Sea border continues to grow.

A series of protest parades have been held in recent months over concerns about the protocol and claims of two-tier policing.

Under current legislation, protest organisers are required to notify the Parades Commission, which has the power to ban marches or impose restrictions.

The majority of protests held in recent weeks have not been notified and last week police said they are currently investigating 35 parades or processions with 30 linked to "PUL (Protestant Unionist Loyalist) community action."

Earlier this week Mr Bryson said he expects protests "are going to increase in intensity and frequency" in the coming weeks.

His latest comments come after leading Orangeman Rev Mervyn Gibson recently said that street protests against the Irish Sea border would increase in the build up to the Twelfth of July, and did not rule out the possibility that civil disobedience could ensue.

Mr Bryson believes the Orange Order should now take a stand.

"The Orange Order had indicated that they oppose the protocol and previously indicated there may be a need for civil disobedience and it's time for the Orange Order to consider following through with that," he said.

"The logical outcome will be the Orange Order will refuse to acknowledge the Parades Commission going into the marching season as an act of civil disobedience."

Rev Gibson said: "The parades issue would be a separate issue from the protocol and something that needs dealt with, it's something that we continually raise with the government and our strategy against it is continuously under review.

"However, the protocol is a separate issue and it is a serious threat facing the future of Northern Ireland."

Rev Gibson repeated his view that protocol protests will pick up pace.

"I think protests in opposition to the protocol will increase as Covid regulations change and more and more people will begin to realise the full dangers that the protocol presents," he said.

He said the Orange Order is committed to "working to get rid of the protocol" and that members are currently considering the upcoming Twelfth celebrations.

"We need clear strategies for what we face and that's parades, protocol and Covid," he said.

"There is an issue of building relations with the police again because if two-tier policing that has been seen."

Mr Bryson reiterated his belief that tensions could spill over.

"Whenever politics fail you unfortunately create a situation where people feel they have nowhere to go but onto the streets," he said.

"I think that is especially dangerous in the context of legitimately held belief that the threat of nationalist violence was rewarded by the imposition of the protocol.

"This creates a powder keg precedent and some loyalists may unfortunately conclude that the threat of violence was good enough to prevent the land border then the same logic would apply to a sea border.

"That is obviously something we have all worked hard to avoid."

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