The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) – the loyalist paramilitary group behind Friday’s proxy bomb threat that saw Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney evacuated from a peace event in Belfast – has issued a stark warning, saying the measures are against the Irish government be “escalated”. In the coming weeks.
Description of the incident in which an innocent van driver was forced at gunpoint to act as a proxy bomb, In a “warning” to Dublin over the Northern Ireland Protocol, a senior UVF member claimed that the group was “actively planning” to target senior Irish politicians and officials visiting the region.
the Sunday independent can also reveal that the terrorist group had intended to disrupt a visiting Tánaiste Leo Varadkar who was due to speak at an event in Belfast this week. He was forced to put plans on hold as he is isolating after testing positive for Covid-19.
“Irish politicians like Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar are not welcome in Northern Ireland. If the Irish government ignores the warnings, loyalists will step up threats against all politicians and officials arriving from Dublin. It’s time to escalate this,” the UVF member said.
It is understood that Mr Varadkar will now attend the business event remotely.
A senior UDA member said loyalists here had adopted a “two-pronged strategy” to defy protocol.
“One is politics, the other is political violence,” he said.
The Loyalist defended Friday’s incident at the Houben Center. where the Build the Common Ground event was hosted by the John and Pat Hume Foundation.
Police said the van was hijacked on Sydney Street West off Shankill Road and the driver was threatened by two gunmen before being forced to drive to the place where Mr. Coveney spoke.
“This was the perfect event to hold, it gets the message across,” said the UDA member. “There is no peace and no reconciliation. How can this be when members of the Irish government are saber rattling and using the threat of IRA violence to get the Brexit they wanted?
“You have a short memory. There will be more incidents.”
Last week’s incident follows several months of veiled threats from loyalist factions, as well as fierce criticism of Dublin’s role in the protocol dispute from unionists including Democratic Union leader Jeffrey Donaldson.
However, Mr Donaldson, speaking at an anti-protocol rally last Friday night, has dismissed any suggestion that his presence at such events with loyalists such as Jamie Bryson – who the BBC says has links to the UVF – is irresponsible and an endorsement is the threats against Dublin.
“Jamie Bryson made it clear at the rally that any protest against protocol must be peaceful. I haven’t heard anyone on any platform I’ve been on suggest that violence against protocol can play a role, nor would I support such a comment,” Donaldson said.
Bryson told the event in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, which was also attended by Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, that “no unionist or self-respecting loyalist is in any mood to bring the temperature down” and that it was “time ‘to fuel them politically high’.
Mr Donaldson admitted to being “concerned” at heightened tensions by what appears to be a minority of loyalists who oppose protocol, saying “only politics is the way forward”.
When asked about his own involvement in such gatherings, the Lagan Valley MP said: “I urge those who suggest that I would in any way advocate violence to read what I said at the rally.
“If there is any indication that by my presence or otherwise I am endorsing violence, then I will see it in court – and I will see in court any newspaper that dares to suggest otherwise.”
Another peace event hosted by the John and Pat Hume Foundation is taking place in Derry this week and will be addressed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Tim Attwood, secretary of the charitable foundation established in 2020 after the death of the former SDLP leader, said the attack will not deter her from her work.
“We are encouraged by what happened on Friday. It’s a reminder that there are still a small number of individuals who want to go back to the bad old days – but that’s not going to happen,” Mr Attwood said.
“Friday’s event itself was all about hope, peaceful change and reconciliation. In the few minutes that he spoke, Secretary Coveney emphasized that – and that is the legacy we want to protect for John and Pat.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/uvf-is-actively-planning-to-target-more-irish-politicians-41491649.html UVF is actively planning to attack more Irish politicians