Northern Ireland protocol ‘has breathed new life’ warns researcher
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Dr Aaron Edward, a researcher focused on Loyalist terrorism, has warned that controversy over the Northern Ireland Protocol has sparked renewed activity from paramilitary groups. The author of UVF: Behind the Mask has stressed that new paramilitary structures have developed in the wake of large-scale unrest within Loyalist communities around the Brexit Protocol. Northern Ireland witnessed the worst rioting seen in decades earlier this year as Loyalist street gangs targeted police in protests over new customs checks in the Irish sea.
Dr Edwards told Express.co.uk: “The fact is the Northern Ireland protocol, Brexit, has breathed new life into these old antiquated paramilitary organisations.
“These rusting structures that we saw for many years have now come back in.
“Where they are recruiting and they are to an extent I guess organized.
“We are seeing them on the streets, we are seeing their dark hand behind a lot of these protest actions.”
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“But one thing that I would point out that isn’t immediately obvious here in the protests.
“We aren’t just seeing mainstream paramilitary groups, loyalist paramilitary groups, the UVF and the UDA. You know the ones we know something about.
“We are also seeing groups where they have essentially broken away in many geographical areas from those main groups and they are running their own shows.
“So they are heavily involved in protest action as well up and down Northern Ireland, east and west, north and south.”
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Dr Edwards also warned that continued “radicalization” over the Protocol may draw more young people into paramilitary groups, as well as spark further fracturing within the UVF and UDA.
He told Express.co.uk: “The potential for breaking away, for fragmentation, is always there within Loyalist paramilitary groups.
“I think we are seeing more of that happening, that is a dangerous development and a pathway open to younger Loyalists coming up through.
“Younger people who may not have been involved in paramilitary activity but suddenly they see that they can become involved in lining their own pockets, making money off it.”
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He added: That is a development which may happen another one might be that Loyalist paramilitary groups just collapse, call it a day, and there are rumors that they will fold at some stage.
“But what replaces them again is an open question,” continued the University of Leicester academic.
“If we see more radicalization and extremism around the Northern Ireland protocol we could see new paramilitary groups emerge.
“So I am not going to say that that won’t happen, I think there is always a danger that may happen.”
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