Protesting in Portadown won’t change Boris Johnson’s opinion on ‘one iota’ protocol, says Naomi Long
Justice Minister Naomi Long warned those protesting against the Northern Ireland protocol that they would not influence Boris Johnson’s change “one iota”.
The Alliance Party leader made the comments following a large protest in Portadown on Saturday, when hundreds of masked men took part in a loyalist protest in the town.
Organized to protest the protocol, the Parade Commission was not notified of the event, as current Covid-19 restrictions limit outdoor gatherings to 500 spectators and 500 participants.
There have been numerous protests from loyalists in recent months angry at the post-Brexit trade deal signed between the UK and the EU. It follows similar gatherings at Carrickfergus and Larne.
Holding flags and banners, many of those present also wore masks and balaclavas.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, Ms Long said such protests would make no difference to those tasked with negotiating the NI protocol and said she was worried on stage.
“I have no problem with people protesting, it is a basic human right that people be allowed to demonstrate and provided they do so within the framework of the law I think that is acceptable” , she said.
“There were elements of the protest that I saw… that concern me. When people take to our streets wearing balaclavas, I have to say that as someone who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, it is not a comfortable sight for anyone.
“As Minister of Justice, it concerns me when I see these paramilitary traps in any form.
“We need to start looking for protocol solutions, however, as far as the root of the problem is concerned, because no number of marches in Portadown are going to sway Boris Johnson or Lord Frost one iota.
“We need to start looking at practical things we can do to try to have a united voice from the executive calling for specific changes. What will change things are the solutions.
Ms Long also said she understood “why people are frustrated”, adding that she felt the UK government should be “honest” about the protocol.
“I think there is a job for the UK government to do to stop suggesting that the protocol is unsustainable and could be changed when, behind closed doors, they say otherwise. I think everyone should be honest, ”she added.
Meanwhile, speaking to the Sunday Times, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said the decision of new DUP chief Edwin Poots not to become prime minister will make “things more difficult”.
Mr Poots is expected to remain Minister of Agriculture when he reshuffles his ministerial team in the coming days. Instead, Lagan Valley MP Paul Givan is supposed to be the frontrunner for the prime minister’s post.
“When we have meetings with the devolved authorities and the prime minister, it’s with the prime minister and the deputy prime minister, it’s not with the party leaders,” Brandon said. Lewis said.
“When I have weekly meetings, it is with the FM (Prime Minister) and the DFM (Deputy Prime Minister). When there is a royal visit, it’s FM and DFM. Having the leader of the biggest party whose Prime Minister is not the Prime Minister will make things more difficult. “
Naomi Long said the arrangement is already having an impact on the ability of legislation to make its way through the Assembly.
“I have had significant difficulties with this arrangement before,” she told Sunday Politics.
“I have a five week pending bill which is essential to protect the public regarding serious sexual offenses, child sexual exploitation and we cannot know when this bill will go to the executive.” for decision.
“We cannot move the bill forward because we have this tug-of-war between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Minister of Agriculture’s office. “
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