Rallies against the Northern Ireland Protocol have vanished from the streets having achieved their goal, it has been claimed.
he tactic of holding the rallies that dominated the run-up to the general election in May was hailed as a success by TÜV boss Jim Allister.
But loyalists say they will return to the streets unless substantial progress is made in lifting trade restrictions they say threaten Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.
While the latest LucidTalk poll suggests that union support for the DUP’s strong stance against the NI Protocol has gained momentum over the summer, the threat of a return to rallies has not been alleviated.
Mr Allister said the notable impact of the protests on the shaping of political trade unionism should not be underestimated.
“They showed that the grassroots union movement was way ahead of the political union movement at the time,” said the North Antrim MLA.
“They showed the depth of sentiment that was against protocol out there and they had the desired effect in the stance we’re seeing now.
“But the political union has to pull this off now.
“We know the sentiments out there and as long as we hold the line we are currently holding and as long as the government continues with its commitment to delivery, rallies are not relevant.
“They achieved what they set out to achieve and right now we are doing the right thing.
“But the Protocol Bill must now be presented undiluted.
“Nothing has been ruled out – and if the situation changes there is little doubt that unions at the grassroots will reconsider the merits of the options available.”
It’s a tactic that loyalists believe worked the first time, and there will be no hesitation in using it again unless significant and rapid progress is made on the bill making its way through the House of Commons.
Support for the DUP currently stands at 24 per cent, up three points since the general election in May, according to the latest poll published in the Belfast Telegraph over the weekend.
This is despite the cost-of-living crisis and the party’s decision not to appoint a speaker for the new assembly, leaving Stormont’s executive branch inoperable.
While most rallies were peaceful, there were several incidents, notably in Upper Bann, where sections of the protest turned against the UUP and particularly against leader Doug Beattie when he chose not to attend.
Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson said the protest powder can be kept dry as long as it looks like progress is being made.
“The purpose of the anti-protocol rallies was to make progress to bring the issue to the forefront of politics,” he said.
“In that respect, the rallies have been a great success. The political trade union movement broadly adopted our position and actually broke down power-sharing.
“Therefore, the political trade union movement in the DUP and TÜV is currently adequately representing our concerns and our position, and indeed, as recent polls show, there is increasing support for this stance.
“Anti-protocol rallies started with the message that it was about power-sharing or protocol.
“Not only has the political union movement embraced this analysis and drawn on a manifesto based on it, but the unionist electorate has also given strong support to this message, which has been portrayed as ‘extreme’.
“The message that it is power-sharing or protocol is now mainstream in unionism.
“The government has also claimed to accept the position that there will be no power-sharing until the Protocol’s malign influence is ended.
“Substantial progress is being made at this time and the political union is holding the position.
“If the purpose of the rallies was to obtain political action, they clearly did so.
“However, should there be a backslide or a weakening of the government’s position by political unions, I think you will see rallies resume – this time, given the vast majority of rallies the union electorate stands, will attract even more people to the streets now firmly behind the anti-protocol stance.
“At present, grassroots union and loyalty are watching progress and want to see faster and more definitive government action.
“If not, then it may well be time that street protests are needed again to remind all interested parties that protocol must go.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/protocol-rallies-have-been-retired-but-may-resume-if-backsliding-says-loyalist-activist-jamie-bryson-41930486.html Protocol rallies have been halted but may resume if they “backslide,” says loyalist activist Jamie Bryson