DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and members of his party that back his deal to revive Stormont have been criticised at a public meeting of hardline unionists and loyalists.
The gathering at Moygashel Orange Hall in Co Tyrone on Thursday evening saw TUV leader Jim Allister and loyalist Jamie Bryson speak out against the deal, which they insist keeps the Irish Sea border in place and risks the long-term future of the union.
The DUP were invited to attend the gathering, but no current party representative was present.
Former DUP MLA and health minister Jim Wells was among around 100 people to attend.
The small building on the outskirts of Moygashel village recently hosted a gathering of loyalists to sign their names to support a call for the DUP to ‘keep your word’ over its opposition to a deal while the Irish Sea border remained in place.
As the meeting got underway, Jamie Bryson said in a post to X that the hall was “full to capacity”.
Mr Bryson told attendees that the DUP leader had told his party colleague at Stormont to become “protocol implementers”.
He said the DUP was now “playing a full and active role in the operation of the very thing which every unionist agrees dismantles the Union as we know it”.
“And one of those MLAs, whoever that may be, will debase themselves and become joint head of an administration, alongside Sinn Fein, that will have a legal duty to build border posts, operate border posts and implement the subjugation of the Acts of Union,” he continued.
“Here is the test for the unionist and loyalist people: if Sir Jeffrey Donaldson cannot convince Nigel Dodds, a DUP stalwart, on what basis can he hope to convince everyone else?
“The Irish Sea border remains with full force.”
However, he praised those within the DUP he claimed remained opposed to the deal, describing them as “gallant principled people”.
Mr Bryson said Northern Ireland remains “subject to laws we did not make and cannot change”.
“Every unionist now faces a choice: you implement the Irish Sea border for sake of pragmatism, or you stand against, come what may, as a matter of principle,” he went on.
“I have made my choice, and I hope all in this hall make the same one.
“Stand firm, don’t give in.”
Jim Allister told the meeting that Northern Ireland was, as far as its goods economy was concerned, “ruled by precisely the same laws as the Irish Republic, not ruled by British laws”.
“What is the constitutional significance of Northern Ireland being governed by laws we don’t make and can’t change? The whole idea of being a sovereign country is that you make your own laws,” the North Antrim MLA said.
He added: “Northern Ireland is now, in constitutional terms, what would be described as a condominium. That’s to say we are ruled in part by UK laws and we are ruled in part by EU laws.”
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson insists the DUP’s deal with the British Government has removed the border for goods moving between the north and Great Britain.
However, hardline unionists have warned the deal does not meet the DUP’s own ‘seven tests’ on the Northern Ireland Protocol it insisted must be met before it would return to Stormont.
Ahead of the meeting, which began at 8pm, Jamie Bryson called for DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to “publicly debate those with whom you marched side by side in unity” during anti-Protocol rallies.
A poster for the meeting stated both DUP and UUP representatives were “welcome”.
A spokesperson for the UUP earlier confirmed the party had no plans for a representative to attend.
The DUP were approached for comment.