Masked Ulster Loyalists Board and Set Fire to Public Bus over EU Sellout

Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Masked men believed to be Ulster loyalists boarded and set fire to a public bus over Northern Ireland’s sellout to the European Union, leaving the driver shaken.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Northern Ireland’s single-largest party and the leading British unionist political force in the province, had previously set November 1st as its deadline for progress to be made on the so-called Northern Ireland protocol — although they swiftly denounced the incident.

The protocol means that Brexit has not, to a great extent, really taken place in one of the Home Nations of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with Ulster, as the region is often called, remaining subject to European Union rules and European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction to a large extent. An internal customs border has also been imposed between it and the rest of the UK so that the border between it and the Republic of Ireland, in the EU, can remain open.

The bus hijacking in Newtownards, County Down, left the vehicle a smouldering wreck, and — while a police investigation into the incident is ongoing — it is widely believed to have been perpetrated by loyalists dissatisfied with the protocol and the way it has undermined Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

“There is absolutely no justification for the hijacking and destruction of a bus in the Abbot Drive area of Newtownards around 06:30 this morning,” commented Ulster Unionist party MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) Mike Nesbitt, whose party opposed Brexit in 2016.

“This advances no cause other than to terrorise a bus driver and inconvenience local people who rely on bus services to get their children to school and get into town to go to the shops,” he added.

“If this was meant to be some kind of protest against the NI Protocol then it is entirely counterproductive. Vandalism and wanton destruction can never be the way forward.”

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), a sister party to Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party which also opposed Brexit in 2016, agreed that the “faceless, mindless cowards who did this have done nothing more than attack their own community.”

She explained that it was her understanding that “Two masked men entered the bus, they held the driver, a male, at gunpoint, they said something about the protocol and they then proceeded to spray the inside of the bus with flammable liquid, they forced the bus driver off the bus and then they set it alight.”

During the EU referendum and the subsequent prolonged negotiations as to how the United Kingdom should break with the bloc, if at all, great stress was put on how concessions to the EU must be made in order to keep the Irish border open, or risk the wrath of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) — with few suggesting Brussels should make any compromise.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in largely submitting to the demands of the EU and Irish nationalists in the province, seems not to have anticipated the growing pushback from British loyalists, who have already manifested their anger at the food shortages and supply chain disruptions caused by the seemingly excessive zeal of EU customs officials administering Great Britain to Northern Ireland border checks in violent protests.

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