Loyalist campaigner Jamie Bryson has launched High Court proceedings against Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill as part of a vow to wage “legal guerrilla warfare” on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The activist claims the former Deputy First Minister unlawfully blocked a paper on post-Brexit Irish Sea border checks from the agenda at a Stormont Executive meeting.
Papers have now been lodged seeking an urgent hearing of his application for leave to apply for judicial review.
Mr Bryson also wants an interim order to prohibit any further implementation of the Protocol by civil servants without fully meeting obligations to consider Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.
The case relates to a paper on Irish Sea border checks submitted in January by DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots.
Mr Poots is already facing legal challenges for directing his officials to halt the inspections on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain amid his party’s continued opposition to the Protocol.
The Minister said he had received legal advice that the step could be taken in the absence of wider Executive approval for the checks.
Those inspections are continuing, however, pending the outcome of the challenges against Mr Poots.
But in a further development, Mr Bryson has commenced legal action against Ms O’Neill and the Northern Ireland Civil Service.
His lawyers claim the then Deputy First Minister blocked Mr Poots' paper from getting on the agenda of an Executive meeting on January 27, depriving him of authority to continue the checks.
That decision was procedurally flawed and involved a partisan political motive, they contend.
Legal papers further allege a failure by Ms O’Neill and the Civil Service to discharge duties contained in Section 46 of the Internal Market Act 2020.
Mr Bryson claimed: “There is a plainly arguable case here that Michelle O’Neill acted unlawfully in blocking Minister Poots’ paper on Protocol implementation from the Executive agenda.”
He confirmed that interim relief is also being sought to potentially stop officials from further implementing the Protocol.
“This is ongoing on the part of the Civil Service, so we want the court to intervene in the same way it has been willing to intervene to stay Minister Poots’ order,” he said.
The campaigner pledged: “We will continue to fight legal guerrilla warfare in courts against the Protocol, attacking it from every possible angle.
“Win or lose, we will keep coming again and again, pursuing legitimate and arguable challenges. The Protocol will never be permitted to embed.”