Belfast Telegraph

Brexit: Threats from paramilitaries aren't basis for decisions, says Donaldson

  • DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson says "there is no place for violence"
  • UUP MLA Doug Beattie advised "dial down the rhetoric"
  • Home Secretary says government is "well aware" of security implications of no-deal
Jeffrey Donaldson
Jeffrey Donaldson

By Eimear McGovern

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said decisions should be made on the ballot box instead of the threat of violence following predictions of civil disobedience from loyalist paramilitaries if Northern Ireland's status within the UK is 'diluted' post-Brexit.

The Lagan Valley MP said: "The United Kingdom is a democracy. All our decisions should be based on the ballot box not the threat of violence. 

"Threats from loyalists or republicans who would use the bomb or bullet are not a basis for a country to make any decisions.  There is no place for violence in this society.

"As the party standing up for Northern Ireland, we will not agree to arrangements which undermine the Union. We will leave the European Union as one nation."

He added his voice to those condemning the predictions which stemmed from sources in the UVF who said it is planning to organise demonstrations and protests using proxies if the Boris Johnson's government attempts a Brexit compromise by aligning Northern Ireland and the Republic in any customs arrangement.

The UUP MLA for Upper Bann Doug Beattie said there should be no talk of bombs going off "anywhere" in response to a suggestion to a prominent loyalist that "we’ll see how hard the border is if bombs start going off in Limerick".

"I don't think that loyalist paramilitaries are intending to raise up violence at all," he said.

"I think there is a concern that loyalists for far too long have been left outside the tent in many of these really important issues.

"We saw it with legacy and we're seeing it now with Brexit and that has raised huge frustrations. I guess those frustrations are resulting in language which nobody should be using."

The UDA in west Belfast is adopting a “wait and see” approach until the specifics of any Brexit deal are announced, according to the Sunday Times.

However, sources close to the group’s thinking say it's making contingency plans.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Priti Patel said planning is ongoing in the name of 'preparedness' in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

She said future intelligence arrangements when the UK exits the EU will be based on the type of tools already in place.

"As Home Secretary and along with the entire government we have been stepping up our planning and preparedness for a no-deal because it's the right thing to do and the responsible thing to do.

"Of course we are absolutely well aware of security implications. When it comes to security tools and security cooperation there are many measures being put in place right now.

"Specifically in Northern Ireland we're very conscious and we're working with all agencies to ensure that we remain safe and that is the priority of the Government to keep our country safe and to keep our people and our communities safe," she said.

"Our security arrangements will be based on the type of tools, the type of shared intelligence forums and the data sharing platforms we already have but when we're looking at alternative arrangements, we've been working on that for the last three months."

Negotiations are currently ongoing between London, Dublin and Brussels to avoid the UK crashing out of the EU on October 31.

A new deal may involve goods entering Northern Ireland facing customs and regulatory checks on the Irish Sea, but being able to move freely across the border. If agreed, this plan would let UK and EU officials collect tariffs at ports in Northern Ireland on behalf of Brussels. The deputy leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds said on Sunday the proposed new solution cannot work because Northern Ireland must remain fully in the customs union.

Prominent loyalist Robert Girvan said: "I can’t see loyalism of any strand just walking into a situation where there is any type of economic union with the Irish Republic. I was talking to someone who said we’ll see how hard the border is if bombs start going off in Limerick."

Loyalists suspected the Irish government viewed Brexit as an opportunity to create a united Ireland through a back door, he said.

"This is not empty rhetoric. When a loyalist says ‘over my dead body’, they mean it. The dog is in the trap and we are waiting to see when the hare will be released," he said.

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson said: "I cannot speak on behalf of the UVF but my view is that its position on this matter is clear," he said.

"The test on what’s proposed will be, does it affect or change Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom? If there is a proposal to align Northern Ireland with the south, or run a border down the Irish Sea, we would have no option but to take to the streets.

"Where that goes afterwards is anyone’s guess. Loyalists will not roll over meekly."

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