Northern Ireland news

Organisers of Lurgan anti-protocol rally hit out at Doug Beattie

UUP leader Doug Beattie. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association

THE organisers of an anti-protocol rally in Lurgan next week have hit out at Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie after he withdrew from the event.

Mr Beattie said his party would no longer be involved in protests against the Irish Sea border because the rallies, the most recent of which took place in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, on Friday night, were being "used to raise the temperature in Northern Ireland and adding to tensions that now see a resurgence in UVF activity".

The UVF has been blamed for a security alert in north Belfast on Friday which saw the Republic’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney forced to leave a peace event.

Lurgan United Unionists, who have organised a rally on Friday of next week, dismissed Mr Beattie's claims that protests were adding to tensions.

"For Mr Beattie to suggest that the protest rallies are anything other than a peaceful and dignified expression of loyalist opposition to the protocol is an egregious slur upon those who have organised, attended and addressed such events," the group said.

The group called on Mr Beattie to "publicly apologise for his comments".

It said there could be no compromise over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

"Unionism cannot accept anything less than the complete destruction of the protocol, to accept less than this is to sign our death warrant as a part of the United Kingdom," it said.

Meanwhile, a committee representing members of the loyal orders in north Antrim has rejected claims that loyalist campaigner Jamie Bryson is organising anti-protocol rallies.

The North Antrim Amalgamated Orange Committee dismissed "ridiculous claims that Jamie Bryson is organising Orange Order protests, or it is his decision as to who speaks at the various anti-protocol rallies".

"Jamie Bryson is not a member of the Orange Order and, like the other speakers in Ballymoney, was an invited speaker and we fully welcome his contribution," the group said.

In a statement, Mr Bryson also said the claims were untrue.

"The rallies are organised by an amalgamation of loyal orders, over which I have no say," said Mr Bryson.

And he added that there were claims he was "running the DUP, last week I was running the PUP and now the UUP suggest I am controlling the Orange Order. Put into that, apparently I run the Nolan Show as well. It has now reached ridiculous and absurd levels of complete fantasy. I am one person and the notion that I exercise such influence if for the birds."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news