The former Downing Street Chief of Staff under Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell helped launch the Loyalist Communities Council
The former Downing Street Chief of Staff under Tony Blair Jonathan Powell - who helped launch the Loyalist Communities Council - urged politicians not to “play with matches” in the wake of the violence and called for engagement with loyalist communities.
Mr Powell, who is not involved in the LCC, also told First Minister Arlene Foster to “back off” after her calls for Simon Byrne to resign.
Mrs Foster again reiterated her call for the PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne to resign, as she says the leadership of the police “needs to change”.
The DUP leader was speaking in the wake of days of violence across Belfast, Carrickfergus and Londonderry which saw loyalists clash with police on the streets.
Forty-one police officers have been injured in the disorder across Northern Ireland and the Assembly at Stormont has been recalled from its Easter recess to meet on Thursday.
Mr Powell said: "I think playing with fire, in allowing this to be tied into identity politics and even violence, is a terrible mistake.
"I think people are playing with matches. I think it is really unwise, even given the turbulence caused by Brexit.
"I think that politicians trying to second guess the police when they are making operational decisions is really a mistake. I hope that the first minister will back off on this and allow the police to proceed with their job."
Speaking the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster on Wednesday, Mrs Foster revealed that she has not met with Mr Byrne and that he has not sought to meet her.
She said anger in the unionist community had been caused by what she called “deferential treatment” given to Sinn Fein during the Bobby Storey funeral and said Mr Byrne had “been warned” about “specialised treatment for a political elite”.
“If I meet the chief constable I will simply repeat what I have said to him last Tuesday after the devastating report from the PPS. That he had lost the confidence of the unionist community and he should resign,” she said.
“I have made it perfectly clear, I believe that the leadership of the PSNI has compromised itself to a point where it needs to change.
“I support all of those police officers who are having to deal with an outrageous couple of nights.
“As a political leader and as a public representative, I don’t just have a right to talk about these issues, I have a duty to call out things when they are not correct.
“I have had a number of contacts, as indeed have all of my colleagues right across Northern Ireland, from ordinary police officers who feel let down by the leadership of the PSNI.
“I spoke with Mark Lindsay of the Police Federation. My party colleagues have been speaking with their commanders right across Northern Ireland to help in any way they can and we will continue to do that.”
Mrs Foster also condemned the “malign influences” as a cause for the violence and added that she supported the right for loyalists to protest “in the appropriate way”.
Stacey Graham, a loyalist community worker from the Shankill Road area said loyalists were getting “increasingly frustrated” after a perception communities had been left behind by the peace process.
“There has been a growing feeling that the Good Friday Agreement hasn’t worked for loyalist communities. People really feel they have been let down and left behind and there is a serious disconnect to the political and social structure in Northern Ireland,” she told the BBC.
Jonathan Powell - who also was involved in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement talks - said he disagreed with the comments.
"There is a problem that loyalists have got left behind," he said.
"They sort of lost their political voice. I think there needs to be an attempt to reach out to loyalists who are prepared to go down the political path."
“I think the politics has got really quite hot in Northern Ireland. I think it is a mistake to try and make it [politics] interesting in the wrong way again with these kinds of issues. We should try and calm everything down. Let’s get back to talking about things that really should matter to people.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s programme, Mr Lindsay said he didn't think the first minister’s call for the chief constable to resign was “a good or sustainable position”.
"Our officers still require a chief constable and I think there needs to be some political will to actually either underpin or remove him,” he added.
"The proper mechanism for that is the policing board, of which all political parties are represented. So they hired him two years ago and it's up to them then to make the decision around that.
“Certainly our members are very disturbed around the political use of commentary that says the chief constable should resign."
Meanwhile, the EU ambassador to the UK has said those wanting an end to the Northern Ireland protocol do not have a better idea of how it should be replaced.
Joao Vale de Almeida told The Guardian, focus should be on making the protocol work. He said the EU would be constructive but it had to remain within the working of the protocol. He said he understood the complexities of Northern Ireland and had recently visited.
He said solutions would come from "implementing the protocol well".
“[Let’s] not forget the origin of the issues. We are talking about the impact of Brexit, which was decided by the British people,” he said.
“We are talking about the impact of the departure from the single market, which was decided on the British side as well.