More loyalist groups have withdrawn support for the PSNI as tensions continue to escalate in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The decision not to prosecute any members of Sinn Fein in connection with the Bobby Storey funeral is also being used as a defence for loyalist groups announcing they will hold bonfires in July, having abandoned them last year due to the pandemic.
Last month it was reported that some loyalist community groups in east Belfast, Ards and north Down had withdrawn from working along with the PSNI as tensions rose around the protocol. That discontent has now spread to other parts of Northern Ireland.
PSNI officers regularly engage with community representatives in relation to events or gatherings, and ask for assistance in defusing any potential street disturbances. While some areas continue to cooperate with community officers, the number of areas that have withdrawn support has grown.
Eleventh Night bonfires, cancelled last year in response to the Covid pandemic, will now go ahead in July, regardless of the restrictions in place at that time, according to loyalist sources.
Loyalists in Moygashel, Co Tyrone, have said they will refuse to liaise with community policing teams about their plans.
Loyalists in the Tigers Bay area of north Belfast have also said they will no longer cooperate, saying they were taking a stand against “two-tier policing”.
Further groups have withdrawn support, including organisations from north Antrim, south Derry and mid-Ulster.
The South Londonderry and Randalstown Collective posted online: “Law as we know it has been cast to the side, just like the unlawful removal of consent mechanisms in the Belfast Agreement which brought about the Protocol/Irish Sea Border. We now call on all shades of unionism to make a stand.”
Loyalists in the Clooney estate in Londonderry said in a statement: “For a number of years now, Clooney estate bonfire has worked tirelessly with our local community policing team to keep them best informed of all plans. This year will be different. We no longer have any engagement with the PSNI involving our bonfire. Our community have simply had enough of the one-sided republican policing across the board here in Northern Ireland.”
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said: “We’re aware of the public statements by a number of groups indicating that they will not engage with the PSNI community policing teams ahead of the summer. We understand and are working to address the very serious public concerns around recent events.
“It’s hugely disappointing to us that anyone would decide not to engage with their local neighbourhood officers especially around events which present public safety challenges. As a police service we remain committed to working with all communities to support their safety and wellbeing.”
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