Northern Ireland

Doug Beattie criticises ‘inflammatory’ Irish Sea border posters amid heightened tensions

Good Friday Agreement 25th Anniversary
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON/PA

Doug Beattie has criticised “inflammatory” anti-Irish Sea border posters as he described threats he and his DUP counterpart have received in recent months..

The Ulster Unionist leader, whose image had a noose attached to it at an anti-protocol rally in 2022, said he received “daily” threats from people opposed to the post-Brexit trade arrangements.

The Upper Bann MLA said the incident in Lurgan at an anti-protocol rally “led to someone smashing my office window”.

His remarks came after Sir Jeffrey Donaldson revealed on Wednesday that he had been threatened by fellow unionists for engaging with the British government in the months since the Windsor Framework was signed.

The DUP leader told the House of Commons how he served with the UDR to “protect everyone in the community from terrorism and violence”.

“And yet today, because of the stirring up that is going on, I was threatened, threatened by those who never put on a uniform, by those who haven’t served our country,” he said.

He said there were elements “who stir up, and those who threaten”.

Sir Jeffrey said he had “checked out” one of those who threatened him on the electoral register.

“They did not vote at the last election,” he said.

“They cannot even come out to vote for our future in the union, never mind doing anything about it, yet they are threatening me, and people like me who are working day and night to try to find solutions and to move Northern Ireland forward on a basis that the vast majority of people can support.”

A DUP statement said details of the threat against the Lagan Valley MP had been reported to the PSNI.

“We trust those responsible will be held accountable for their actions,” a party spokesperson said.

“There is no place for the threat of violence in democratic politics.”

The PSNI did not respond to The Irish News.

Jim Allister and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson remove a poster of the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Doug Beattie, with a noose at a rally in Lurgan in April 2022
Brexit Jim Allister and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson remove a poster of UUP leader Doug Beattie depicting a noose at a rally in Lurgan in April 2022. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Beattie said he was told by the PSNI about threats to his life and that he was regularly on the receiving end of sinister emails, phone calls to his office, and social media posts, as well as verbal abuse.

“But look, if I lived my life by the number of threats I get, I would do absolutely nothing, so I kind of see them as for what they are,” the former British soldier said.

The UUP leader warned of a “heightening of tension” around the Irish Sea border and criticised what he described as an “inflammatory” TUV campaign which saw “Stop the DUP Sell Out” posters erected in unionist areas.

He said those responsible for a the posters had a “legitimate grievance” but had “no control over the response”.

“We just need to be careful because when you raise rhetoric you can’t control the outcomes,” he said.

“We can go back a couple of years to where we literally had somebody delivering a fake bomb to the Irish foreign affairs minister – I’m always mindful of people just raising the rhetoric.”

A TUV spokesperson said threats had “no place in politics”.

“In the most recent example to hit the headlines, we welcome the fact that the name and address of at least one such guilty party are known as Sir Jeffrey was able to tell the House of Commons that they didn’t even vote,” the spokesperson said.

“We therefore look forward to the PSNI making an arrest and successful prosecution of the person responsible.”

In response to Mr Beattie comments about the poster campaign, the TUV spokesperson said: “As for posters, no one should suggest that there is a nexus between those who engaged in legitimate political activity and threats of violence.”