Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Loyalists turn ire towards unionist politicians

UDA Leader Jackie McDonald shakes hands with First Minister Peter Robinson at Stormont after the first meeting of the Ulster Unionist Forum in January
UDA Leader Jackie McDonald shakes hands with First Minister Peter Robinson at Stormont after the first meeting of the Ulster Unionist Forum in January

Unionist leaders have come under fierce attack at a public forum organised in the aftermath of loyalist Union flag protests.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and TUV boss Jim Allister were among those lambasted in Lisburn.

More than 300 people filled the main hall at Island Civic Centre for the Unionist Forum last night to debate issues important to loyalists – parading, identity, unemployment and education.

One man suggested unionists were turned off by politicians who have their "snouts in the trough".

There was applause when a young man said: "Our politicians are not doing enough to defend us. This should be called the loyalist forum, but loyalism seems to be a dirty word."

An 18-year-old said he would not be voting "because there is no one to vote for – there is no-one representing me".

Another young man agreed, "because it's practically impossible to change the Government because of the agreement the DUP signed up to". He challenged the UUP to go into opposition.

The two-hour session was also attended by Orange Order chaplain Rev Mervyn Gibson and PUP leader Billy Hutchinson.

Mr Gibson said he believed one effect of the protests against restrictions on flying the Union flag at Belfast City Hall would be an increase in unionists voting.

He said he believed that politics must not be abandoned to republicans, and unionists had stared down the barrel of the gun of IRA violence for 35 years and not been defeated.

Mr Nesbitt said he believed people felt there was little point in the Union being safe if unionists could not celebrate their Britishness.

The meeting was organised under the auspices of the Ulster Political Research Group, which advises the UDA, and was opened by UDA leader Jackie McDonald.

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