Photo credit: Keresaspa on Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Unionist paramilitary organisations have told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that they are officially withdrawing their support for the Good Friday peace accord out of anger for the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Signs were spotted in County Tyrone, reading “Our forefathers fought for our freedom and rights – no border in the sea or we continue to fight”, and portraying a man in a balaclava wielding an AK47 and standing next to a Union Jack. Another read “Loyalist Eastvale Avenue says “no” to Irish sea border – anti-GFA” [Good Friday Agreement] “1998, still anti-GFA 2021.”
Loyalist paramilitary organisations have told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson they are withdrawing support for the Good Friday Agreement https://t.co/dZYpTwGFxp
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 4, 2021
However, despite sabre rattling from illegal paramilitary groups, the Loyalist Communities Council emphasised that all opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol should remain “peaceful and democratic.”
Jeffrey Donaldson, a DUP MP, stated that the move does not mean that there will be a return of violence, stating that he saw no evidence that paramilitary groups intended to resist the protocol using violence. The DUP leadership recently engaged in a controversial meeting with these illegal organisations, which many condemned as “legitimising” them.
Arlene Foster ‘legitimising’ loyalist paramilitaries with meeting https://t.co/f4vO3XvuA8
— breakingnews.ie (@breakingnewsie) February 26, 2021
Donaldson told BBC Radio Ulster that his party colleagues left the meeting with “no sense that loyalist paramilitaries were going to revert to violence in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol…Of course we are very clear that choosing the path of violence is not the way to go in any circumstances.”
Loyalists have been in uproar since the EU erected what is effectively a customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Unionist communities fear that this will create greater economic unity on the island of Ireland, leading to a greater potential for a United Ireland in future.
This led an anonymous individual or group to threaten dock workers and customs officials with graffiti in Larne, Co. Antrim.
— Claire Byrne Live (@ClaireByrneLive) February 1, 2021
However, the Police Service Of Northern Ireland subsequently stated that this incident was not linked to any paramilitary groups.
EU asks its officials in Northern Ireland not to go to work and condemns 'any threats' to port staff https://t.co/m2KyHq0N8H
— TheJournal.ie (@thejournal_ie) February 2, 2021
Now Unionist paramilitaries have sent Boris Johnson a letter, stating that their opposition to the Good Friday Agreement will continue until the protocol and the customs border in the Irish sea is done away with or amended, calling for “unfettered access for goods, services, and citizens throughout the United Kingdom”.
“If you or the EU is not prepared to honour the entirety of the agreement then you will be responsible for the permanent destruction of the agreement,” they added.