Former First Minister Arlene Foster believes anti-protocol protests will become larger and remain “quite aggressive” if the British and Irish Governments, and the European Union continues to ignore unionist and loyalist concerns.
It comes after Friday’s latest protest in Markethill, Co Armagh, where DUP MP Sammy Wilson was booed and jeered by the crowd as he attempted to deliver a speech.
During his address, Mr Wilson compared the EU's handling of Northern Ireland in the Brexit process to Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.
However, his comments were often drowned out as angry crowd members accused his party of botching the Brexit process, with TUV leader Jim Allister having to intervene on his behalf at one point.
Speaking on GB News’ Political Correction programme on Sunday, Arlene Foster said “upwards of 10,000 people” attended the rally despite the freezing weather conditions.
The former DUP leader said frustration over the protocol “was very tangible” as unionists and loyalists feel they are not being listened to.
“Neither Westminster, Dublin or indeed Europe seems to be taking any notice and that’s why you see these protests becoming larger,” stated Mrs Foster. “I have to say quite aggressive as well.
“Sammy Wilson, who is the Brexit spokesperson for the Democratic Unionist Party, attended and he has said the way Northern Ireland has been treated by the European Union is similar to the way in which Russia treats the Crimea. So in other words, annexation.
“Some people wont agree with that but I think what they do agree with is the fact there is no respect for the internal market of the United Kingdom, there’s no respect for the fact that we are part of the United Kingdom and should therefore be treated as such.
“But Europe continues to use these checks that are completely unnecessary because we have exactly the same rules in GB as we do in the rest of the European Union at present.
“But they continue to press ahead and I think you will see more protests at this time and indeed coming up to the Assembly election in May, things will be ratcheted up.”
Mrs Foster added that it is “not all good here in Northern Ireland at present” and said the Prime Minister must trigger Article 16 without delay.
However, she did stress that she did not feel there would be a repeat of the widespread disorder that took place across Northern Ireland in April.
“What we seen on Friday night was a very peaceful protest and I think that’s the way in which these protests will continue and that’s absolutely the right thing to do as well,” said Mrs Foster.