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Loyalist Communities Council and other groups demand unionist leaders sign up to ‘key tests’ ahead of Assembly poll

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Anti-protocol rally in Lurgan

Anti-protocol rally in Lurgan

PA

Anti-protocol rally in Lurgan

Unionist party leaders have been urged to sign up to five “key tests”, including not to elect a non-unionist First Minister if the majority of elected MLAs are unionists.

The demands come as part of an open letter signed by several groups including the Loyalist Communities Council.

In the document - addressed to the DUP, UUP, TUV and PUP – the groups describe themselves as “coming together as a Union of Unionists” and claim they seek “commitment” on the tests which they say are “of vital importance” ahead of the poll on Thursday.

They said a failure of leaders to sign up to the points made in the letter would suggest there is “no sustainable basis for unionist/loyalist support for the power-sharing Institutions in Northern Ireland”.

The groups who co-signed the letter also include the likes of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, Greater Shankill Coalition and Let’s Talk Loyalism.

Elsewhere in the demands, the letter references the “full restoration” of “equal constitutional citizenship” across the UK and hits out at the Northern Ireland Protocol by demanding laws are made “exclusively within the United Kingdom’s jurisdiction”.

They also argue unionist leaders should agree there can be no nationalist First Minister elected following the vote if a majority of those elected to Stormont designate as unionists.

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“This was the intent behind the FM/DFM provisions in the Belfast Agreement as passed by referendum, that FM and DFM, although co-equal should be drawn from the largest and second largest designations and have the confidence of the NI Assembly. These provisions should be restored,” the letter states.

They also ask that politicians set out whether they “accept or reject” proposals around language and culture that are set to be introduced as part of the New Decade, New Approach deal which restored powersharing in January 2020.

The plans agreed in NDNA include an Office of Identity and Cultural Expression to promote respect for diversity as well as an Irish Language Commissioner and a commissioner to develop language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition.

Earlier this month Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said the package of legislation would not be introduced ahead of the election.

The open letter ends by stating: “We re-affirm our commitment to a shared and peaceful Northern Ireland whereby all citizens can feel comfortable and be treated with equal respect and dignity within the United Kingdom.

“As a political leader of unionism we ask you to publicly declare your commitment to these tests, and to support the grassroots campaign to encourage transfers of votes within the unionist family.”


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