THE head of the Royal Black Institution sent a defiant message to the British government on Saturday, warning that Northern Ireland “is not up for sale”.
In a speech to members of the order, Sovereign Grand Master Reverend William Anderson also said their British citizenship had been “seriously eroded” by the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Rev Anderson was speaking after the annual demonstration in Maguiresbridge in Fermanagh to commemorate the 1689 Battle of Newtownbutler.
He said it was “time to remind our UK government that this part of the UK is not up for sale to — or for treaty with — any foreign power”. “The memory of those who fought and removed such a foreign power then should encourage that resolve,” he said.
“We cannot be unaware of the dilution of our citizenship of the United Kingdom.
“It is hard to believe that a government would agree to the annexation of part of its sovereign territory without seeking the approval of the people in that territory.”
Rev Anderson added that “under the threat of republican terrorism, we have been left with a border not between the UK and the EU but between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK — a border in the Irish Sea”. “This means that not only are there numerous customs checks for the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK but also, more importantly, our citizenship of the UK here in Northern Ireland is now different — it has been seriously eroded,” Rev Anderson told members.
“Indeed, the Act of Union has been compromised.
“The UK government has sole responsibility for its citizens throughout the UK, especially here in Northern Ireland. No part of that responsibility should be shared with any foreign power.”
Speaking about the reasons for the protocol, Rev Anderson said: “The task of preventing inferior goods entering the EU is an EU problem. It is not up to the UK to solve that problem.
“Just look at how the French refuse to take responsibility for those leaving its shores for illegal entry into the UK.”
The demonstration drew more than 1,000 members of the senior loyal order from across Northern Ireland and the Republic, accompanied by more than 30 bands.
County Grand Master and UUP MLA Tom Elliott was among those in attendance at the event.