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Loyalists warn of more violence before Christmas

A PSNI officers surveys the burned out remains of a bus in Newtownards earlier this month. Picture by Mark Marlow.
Connla Young

LOYALISTS have warned that there could be an escalation in anti-protocol linked violence in the run up to Christmas.

The stark warning comes as tensions continue to remain high in loyalist areas over the Irish Sea border.

Earlier this month a bus was burned out in the Newtownards area of Co Down in an attack police later blamed on the UVF.

The attack coincided with a deadline previously set by the DUP to resolve issues around the protocol and Irish Sea border.

The unionist party had threatened to collapse Stormont power-sharing unless major changes to the contentious sea border trading arrangements were made.

A second bus was also burned out in a similar incident in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey days later.

The separate arson attacks followed serious loyalist street violence and protest parades earlier this year.

Loyalist sources are now warning that continued frustration over the protocol could spark a fresh round of violence in the run up to the festive season.

"You could maybe see some sporadic outbursts of things in various places through the country, I think that will become more pronounced as we go (on)," a source last night said.

The source also said that there is continued "frustration with the DUP who promised political action but don't appear to be delivering on that political action so they have created a vacuum".

Tensions could yet again reach boiling point in the coming weeks the source added.

"I think you would see violent actions, disruptive actions that could involve violence (and) could become more widespread, albeit still sporadic, but could become widespread in the coming weeks," the source said.

It comes as a legal bid, which was previously put on hold, to have the protocol declared unlawful is due to start at the Court of Appeal in Belfast today.

TUV leader Jim Allister and former DUP and UUP chiefs Arlene Foster and Lord Trimble are among those involved in the case.

Alliance Party Brexit spokeswoman Sorcha Eastwood last night said the protocol has the potential to give the north an economic lift.

“While the protocol is not perfect and changes need made to make some trade flow better, it gives Northern Ireland a unique position which has been evidenced in recent investment announcements here," she said.

“Indeed, latest opinion polls show it is down the priority list for the majority of people."

The Lisburn and Castlereagh councillor said those who threaten violence represent no-one.

“We are in a time when the health service is on the verge of collapse, Covid numbers are on the rise, the climate crisis continues apace and children are sitting an outdated transfer test," she said.

“Those threatening disruption or violence represent nobody, not even most unionists, who we have seen are prepared to be pragmatic on this issue.”

When contacted the PSNI said it had no comment to make.

The DUP was contacted but did not respond.

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