Northern Ireland

Orange Order's Mervyn Gibson 'naive' for backing Liz Truss in Tory leadership contest

Liz Truss and Rev Mervyn Gibson together on the Shankill in January
Liz Truss and Rev Mervyn Gibson together on the Shankill in January

ORANGE Order grand secretary Mervyn Gibson has been described as "naive" after endorsing Liz Truss for the Tory leadership.

The Presbyterian minister and former RUC Special Branch officer took to social media yesterday to show his support for the foreign secretary.

He subsequently told The Irish News he believed Ms Truss - the former chief Brexit negotiator - "understands that there will be no return to Stormont until the protocol is sorted".

Saying Ms Truss "gets the protocol" the senior Orange Order figure said he believed she would deliver controversial legislation that seeks to disapply elements of the post-Brexit trade arrangements.

His endorsement came just days after former first minister-turned-GB News presenter Dame Arlene Foster gave her backing to Ms Truss.

Asked whether he trusted the bookies' favourite to succeed Boris Johnson, Rev Gibson said he had "no choice but to".

"I think Liz Truss is the better candidate and overall will make a better prime minister," he said.

"I think she gets the protocol and its effect on the union and she'll deliver the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill when she can."

The Orange Order said its grand secretary's opinions were personal and that it had no stance on the current contest to be the next British prime minister.

Ms Truss faced criticism in January when she held meetings with the senior Orangeman on Belfast's Shankill Road but snubbed representatives of Alliance, the SDLP and Ulster Unionists during a visit to Belfast.

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said all Liz Truss and fellow Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak cared about was "getting power and holding onto it".

"It is naive to think otherwise," the West Tyrone representative added.

"I would caution people going down the rabbit hole of believing that the same ministers in the same government from the same party will suddenly act differently when it comes to this place and the interests of people here," he said.

"The challenges facing people here will only be resolved by political leaders working together in our substantial common interests, not trying to undercut one another."

Meanwhile, blogger Jamie Bryson has said there will be no more anti-protocol rallies for the foreseeable future because the protests had succeeded in influencing unionism and the British government.

"But the tactic of protest remains an option should there be any backsliding," he tweeted.