Northern Ireland news

Police have capacity to tackle loyalist disorder after Brexit deal, says Byrne

Chief Constable Simon Byrne speaks during the Northern Ireland Policing Board meeting at Clarendon Road in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Police have the resources to deal with any loyalist disorder in the wake of a new post-Brexit deal, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has said.

Mr Byrne told the Policing Board in Belfast that his assessment is that loyalism “remains calm” following the unveiling of the Windsor Framework earlier this week.

He was quizzed about a report in a Sunday newspaper which suggested loyalist paramilitaries could cause widespread disorder if any EU-UK deal did not scrap the so-called Irish Sea border.

The Windsor Framework was announced on Monday in an effort to remove post-Brexit trade barriers, creating a new system for the flow of goods into Northern Ireland.

In late 2021, two buses in loyalist areas were hijacked and burnt amid rising tensions over opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Byrne said: “There have been some questions raised in the margins about the revisions to the protocol arrangements and the effect on loyalism.

“At the moment, in the midst of everything else, we assess that loyalism remains calm in terms of the chatter, but we will keep that perspective under clear and careful review.”

Ulster Unionist board member Mike Nesbitt offered his solidarity to Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, who was shot last week in an attack blamed on dissident republicans.

He said: “The people I do not stand in solidarity with are the UVF thugs who apparently have threatened to wreck the place if they don't get what they want.

“I would appreciate it if you would assure us you have the capacity to deal with that threat and also your assessment of whether that threat is more than empty words.”

The chief constable said: “We do have the resource at the moment if we go to a different place in terms of protest or, god forbid, disorder.

“We aren't picking up any chatter or anything in terms of planning that would cause us concerns in terms of a reaction in the way that has been reported that ‘we are going to burn the place down', as has been in the media from that part of the community.

“We are actively monitoring as best as we can.

“Suffice to say at the moment things remain calm.”