Northern Ireland

Angry loyalists plan to block access to Stormont

Desperate bid to block the election of new speaker and nationalist First Minister

DUP Leader Jeffrey Donaldson arrives At Stormont Castle On Friday As Party Leaders Hold A Meeting. PICTURE:  COLM LENAGHAN
Jeffrey Donaldson DUP Leader Jeffrey Donaldson arrives At Stormont Castle On Friday As Party Leaders Hold A Meeting. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN

Police have said they are “continuing to monitor tensions” after loyalists were urged to set up a blockade at Stormont in a bid to halt the restoration of power sharing.

A message posted on the Official Protestant Coalition Facebook page has called on “all right-minded thinking members of the PUL (Protestant Unionist Loyalist) community to block” all gates around the Stormont estate on Saturday morning in an effort to stop DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson and party colleagues from electing a new speaker and Sinn Féin first minister.

Colm Lenahghan portfolio
Union Flag protester Willie Frazer at the launch of the Protestant Coalition in 2013

The original Protestant Coalition was formed in 2013 during the failed loyalist flag protests and included prominent loyalist campaigner Willie Frazer, who died in 2019, as a leading member.

Some loyalists are opposed to the DUPs deal with the British government, which is expected to see a return of the executive when elected representatives meet at Stormont on Saturday.

Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill is in line to become first minister and will become only nationalist to ever hold the office.

Loyalist protesters are being urged to gather at Stormont at 7.30am and asked to bring flags, banners and placards for what has been labelled ‘Operation Stop Jeffrey Donaldson’.

“Let’s make this another Ulster Says No rally like 1985 and show them we are not the generation to fail Ulster,” a Facebook statement said.

“We the people will not let down the victims and survivors of the many, many atrocities during the IRA conflict.

“If you care about the victims and survivors, be there, don’t let them tarnish their good names with this dirty deal.”

Earlier this week the Protestant Coalition called on the DUP to expel its leader as “he has sold his country out for 30 pieces of silver and a £3 billion rescue deal”.

At a meeting of the Policing Board this week chief constable Jon Boutcher played down the prospect of roads being blocked ahead of the return of power sharing.

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said police are aware of the latest social media post.

“Police are aware of these uncorroborated social media posts suggesting roads could be blocked,” she said.

“Police will continue to monitor tensions surrounding the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and work with communities and partners to fulfil our statutory obligations.”

The spokeswoman also confirmed that water cannon lent to the An Garda Síochána last year were returned to the PSNI earlier this week.

The confirmation came after a small PSNI convoy was spotted traveling in the direction of Belfast on Wednesday.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland responded to a mutual aid request from An Garda Síochána in November 2023 by dispatching two water cannon,” the spokeswoman said.

“The water cannon were returned on Wednesday, January 31.”

Cartoon showing a man in a t-shirt with a skull on it reading a booklet titled 'Command paper' which he is holding upside down
Ian Knox cartoon 2/2/24