Unionist protests against the Irish protocol of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement appear to be petering out after less than fifty people gathered for a high profile rally in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh on Wednesday, 25 August.
Organisers, including blogger Jamie Bryson and TUV leader Jim Allister, had notified the Parades Commission and said they expected up to 500 people to support the band parade and rally in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.
But the event saw only a tenth of that number turn up to demonstrate what organisers had claimed would reveal the force of unionist opposition to the protocol. Some of those involved resorted to holding two flags to appear more numerous.
The Protocol gives the north of Ireland special status within the European Union’s Single Market for goods, allowing trade to flow freely across the island but at the expense of new checks on shipments at Larne and Belfast ports. Loyalists have argued that the measures amount to an ‘Irish Sea Border’.
Nationalist commentator Chris Donnelly said the protests were intended to “demonstrate the harm” that has been caused by the Protocol.
“The loyalist organisers had hoped they would be able to galvanise support by marrying it to the loyalist parades through the marching season,” he said.
“I think what’s very interesting is how they have struggled, they have really struggled to get the numbers out and to maintain a momentum.”
Now eight months into his faltering campaign, Bryson has dismissed the poor turnouts and said that people are showing their anger at the protocol “in different ways”. Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party is said to be “considering its options”.
The new DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson warned the European Union it needs to “change its tune” around the protocol ahead of a meeting with 26 County Taoiseach Michael Martin.
“The economic disruption of the UK Single Market continues. We continue to make our case in London. Dublin also has a key role to play,” he said.
“It is time for Brussels to change its tune. It either changes course or it will have to take responsibility for northern Ireland drifting backwards.”