Northern Ireland , Senior loyalist says NI post-Brexit tensions ‘most dangerous for years’

Northern Ireland , Senior loyalist says NI post-Brexit tensions ‘most dangerous for years’

Northern Ireland,Brexit,Democratic Unionist party,Edwin Poots,David Campbell,harbouchnews

Northern Ireland protocol should be replaced, chair of Loyalist Communities Council tells MPs

The head of a loyalist group in Northern Ireland with links to former paramilitaries has warned of the prospect of more violence in the region, describing tensions over Brexit as “probably the most dangerous for many years”.

David Campbell, the chair of the Loyalist Communities Council, called for the Northern Ireland protocol to be replaced, echoing the words of new leader of the Democratic Unionist party, Edwin Poots, who said on Tuesday that it should be “dismantled”.

“We definitely could creep over into violence, I describe this as probably the most dangerous situation for many years, but I do hope common sense will prevail,” Campbell told MPs on the Northern Ireland affairs committee on Wednesday.

“If there is any good on this current protocol, it is just so vastly outweighed by the constitutional hurt that it simply has to be replaced and I don’t think it can’t just be tinkered with,” he added.

His comments will add to the pressure on Brussels and London to resolve fundamental differences over the protocol, which has infuriated unionists and led to violence on the streets over Easter.

The committee got an uncomfortable glimpse of what some loyalists think when another witness, Joel Keys, a 19-year-old member of the LCC, told them violence could not be taken off table when basic rights were under threat.

“The minute that you rule violence out completely … you’re admitting that you’re not willing to back up anything that you believe in,” he said.

Asked by the committee’s chair, Simon Hoare, a Conservative MP, whether this was not an “incredibly worrying and dispiriting answer”, he responded: “Let me make it clear, I am no fan of violence and I think it has to be an absolute last resort. It worries me that we could potentially reach a point in this country or in any country where the people do feel they have to defend themselves.

“If we do look across the pond at America, that very basic right of self-defence is instilled in their constitution.”

Keys said he supported and respected the political process. “I want to emphasise, I don’t think we’re anywhere near that point at the minute. I think the political process is one that we all have to use and take advantage of.”

The LCC was set up in 2015 with the help of one of the architects of the peace process, Jonathan Powell, to help engage with extremists in the loyalist community.

Campbell, a former chair of the Ulster Unionist party, said “disruption” would not be helpful for Northern Ireland but young unionists like Keys felt that “their identity and constitutional position has been jeopardised”, and unless they were listened to they were in danger of becoming an “underclass”.

He said there was no use waiting until 2023 for changes to the protocol, a reference to the date set in the Brexit deal for Stormont to be given a vote on the protocol continuing or not.

“I can’t see that we can remotely afford four months let alone four years. Personally I don’t think the institutions can be sustained for the next four years if the protocol isn’t rectified within the next four months,” he said.

the guardian

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