Northern Ireland ‘sacrificed’ in Brexit deal, House of Lords committee told

Loyalist leader claims nationalist interests were ‘carefully safeguarded’

 The House of Lords committee investigating the impact of the NI protocol was told that further trouble on the streets is likely over the summer months. File photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

The House of Lords committee investigating the impact of the NI protocol was told that further trouble on the streets is likely over the summer months. File photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

 

Northern Ireland was “sacrificed ... as collateral damage”, a loyalist community worker has told a House of Lords committee investigating the impact of the NI protocol on people and communities in the North.

Jackie Redpath, the chief executive of the Greater Shankill Partnership, said its impact was “reverberating at every level of society in Northern Ireland, but in particular on unionist and loyalist communities.”

Unionists are opposed to the Northern Ireland protocol - part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement - because it places a customs and regulatory border between it and the rest of the United Kingdom.

“I would suggest to you that the most significant impact of it is the feeling among the community that politics doesn’t work, that our politicians are powerless in this situation, and that’s a very dangerous position to be in and it leaves a yawning chasm that will be filled by other things,” Mr Redpath said.

This, he said, had “destabilised things, to the degree of, I believe, actually destabilising the peace process”.

Referring to the on-street disorder in April, he said he “dread[ed] to think” what would have happened had there not been a pause following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

He likened the current situation to a “frozen state” and added, “we look like we are going to have ongoing street protests against the protocol, they could go wrong at any point, not in a planned way but just due to some incident ... we await to see what may transpire during the summer which I really hope does not happen.”

Mr Redpath was one of several witnesses giving evidence to the Committee on Wednesday.

The former senior Northern Ireland Office official Mary Madden said there was a feeling of alienation and abandonment within loyalist and unionist communities. “I think that has generated ... the only thing that seems to get people’s attention is some kind of street protest leading into street violence.”

She said she felt the situation might be better managed if “something more was done around the protocol” but it would take “quite significant political leadership to ensure that continued opportunities to try and amend or change or find solutions to the protocol is done through political, non-violent means”.

The Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland, Peter Sheridan, said the priority should be to “mitigate and remove those parts of the protocol that have the most material adverse impact currently on the lives of communities across Northern Ireland ... and that the pace of change is accelerated between the UK government and the EU in those parts that are causing the most difficulty”.

“I don’t think for one minute that will deal with the constitutional issue, but it may help reduce some of the tensions because what’s causing some of the tensions is the visibility of that Border down the Irish Sea,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) councillor Dr John Kyle told the House of Commons’ Northern Ireland Affairs Committee the identity and ethos of the unionist community within the UK had been sacrificed for the protocol.

Dr Kyle said there was no equal treatment between the nationalist and unionist community in the Brexit process and the aspirations and interests of the nationalist community had been “carefully safeguarded” by the European Union.