Leading article

Protocol violence remarks alarming

THE ease with which unionist and loyalist representatives increasingly speak about civil disobedience and the potential of further violence as an expression of opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol is alarming and irresponsible.

It is clear that the disturbances which erupted in loyalist districts during the Easter period achieved nothing but destruction and mayhem.

The grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, the Rev Mervyn Gibson, this week 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.

The Loyalist Communities Council, which represents some paramilitary groups, has also made a number of unhelpful interventions.

These have included its chairman, David Campbell, saying that "if it comes to the bit where we have to fight physically to maintain our freedom within the UK, then so be it".

This week the LCC was granted another high profile forum - Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee - to make yet more similar remarks, to the obvious despair and incredulity of British MPs.

The most dispiriting contribution was from teenager Joel Keys, who told the committee he stood by his comments that "sometimes violence is the only tool you have left".

Mr Keys said he couldn't rule out violence as a response to the protocol, though insisted that he was "no fan of violence" himself.

It is striking that both Mr Keys and Mr Campbell in their commentary have argued that violence could be justified in circumstances where the government was a totalitarian regime, citing Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

This speaks to the incoherence of much of unionist opposition to the protocol; the Brexit deal between the UK and the EU was endorsed by democratically-elected MPs, not imposed by a tyrannical dictator.

And while many others warned clearly and repeatedly of the dangers inherent in leaving the EU, it was Brexit's leading campaigners, the DUP, who were manoeuvred into playing a decisive role in facilitating Boris Johnson's installation as prime minister - thus paving the way for the protocol.

Such confusion and contradiction appear set to continue, with new DUP leader Edwin Poots saying that his agriculture department will continue to operate Brexit port checks... apparently in order to show that they don't work.

Citizens of all communities deserve better, and to have the threat of violence removed altogether.

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