Unionists must unite in opposition to Northern Ireland Protocol – Donaldson

DUP leader stresses importance of unionists working together at ant-protocol rally

Unionists need to unite in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

The DUP leader addressed a rally against the protocol, in Castlederg in Co Tyrone on Thursday, where he stressed the importance of unionists working together.

Speaking before the demonstration he said: "Across Northern Ireland I am hearing a loud and consistent message that unionist voters want to see unionist parties standing and working together.

"When it comes to the benefits of the union and Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom there is far more which unites unionist parties than divides us.

“There is a clear understanding of how important this election will be and how it will shape the future direction of Northern Ireland.

“When Sinn Féin place their focus on using the election to advance constitutional change we know exactly what that means.

"Should Sinn Féin win the election, then on May 6th the focus will be on advancing plans for a divisive border poll rather than fixing our NHS, helping working families or growing the economy."

Mr Donaldson continued: “No unionist elected representative supports the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“The progress made in bringing the EU back to the negotiating table was achieved through a united stance.

“It is only those who want to weaken unionism or who still want the ‘rigorous implementation’ of the Protocol that have anything to gain from divisions within unionism.”

‘Stark reality’

TUV leader Jim Allister told the rally that the Northern Ireland Protocol was "furthering the objective" of a united Ireland.

He said: “How could it be otherwise when, under the protocol, Great Britain is regarded as a third or foreign country in trade terms?

“The stark reality, as spelled out in the Court of Appeal judgment on the protocol, is that the protocol ”subjugates“ Article Six of the Acts of Union, which guarantees freedom of trade within and between the constituent parts of this United Kingdom.”

He said that checks on goods at Northern Ireland ports meant that freedom of trade had been “fettered”.

Mr Allister added: “All of this is with the political intent that once you create an all-Ireland economically, it is but a short step to a political all-Ireland.

“That is why all unionists must unite and resolutely oppose the iniquitous protocol.”

The Castlederg rally is the latest in a series which have been taking place across Northern Ireland outlining unionist and loyalist opposition to the post-Brexit protocol, which sees additional checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from Britain.

It is strongly opposed by unionists as a border in the Irish Sea.

Protesters met at the Orange hall in the town before parading to the Diamond and then returning to the hall for speeches.

The rally was also addressed by loyalist activist Jamie Bryson.

Mr Bryson used his speech to call on Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie to rejoin the demonstrations.

Mr Beattie has said he will not attend the rallies, which he said are raising tensions.

Since then the window of his constituency office in Portadown was smashed, and one of his election posters was left with a noose around the neck outside an anti-protocol protest in Lurgan. – PA

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