Two men have been arrested in Larne, Northern Ireland, on suspicion of painting graffiti condemning Irish Sea border checks.
A series of slogans were painted at various locations in the town on Saturday, with one stating: “Larne says no to Irish Sea border.” At about 9.40pm that evening, police received a report in relation to two males reportedly spray painting graffiti on property on Main Street. Police searched a vehicle in the area and a number of items were seized and taken away for examination.
Officers subsequently arrested two men in the Church Road area of the town on suspicion of offences, including criminal damage and possessing of an article with intent to damage property. They both remained in custody on Sunday evening.
Police were also investigating further reports of graffiti in the town on Point Street, Bank Road and Redlands Road.
It comes after Brexit checks were suspended at Larne and Belfast last Monday as 12 inspection staff were removed from Larne port, following what the local council described as an “upsurge in sinister and menacing behaviour”, including graffiti near the port warning that all border officials were targets.
Police have said there is no evidence that loyalist paramilitaries were involved in the incidents, instead blaming disgruntled individuals and small groups. The Brexit checks were reinstated on Friday.
Amid the rising tensions, the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s chief constable called for calm last week following 26 graffiti incidents across Northern Ireland.
Simon Byrne told a policing board meeting in Belfast on Thursday: “It is now time for wise words and calm heads. We need to work together to look at a route map to normality because that seems to be the opportunity before us, to step back from the brink in terms of community tension.”
The first minister, Arlene Foster, also urged restraint, asking that people “stay calm” and “focus their energies on constitutional politics”.
The Democratic Unionist party leader has called for the Brexit agreement’s Northern Ireland protocol – the measure designed to keep the Irish land border open – to be scrapped. The demand has been rejected by the Irish government and the EU, with the Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, telling BBC Ulster “there is not going to be very dramatic change”, and Dublin’s focus will be on easing problems with the trade deal.
Michael Gove and the European commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, are due to meet in London this week following a “constructive” discussion over problems with application of the protocol. A new specialised committee, mandated under the Brexit deal, will also be created and will meet in the next two weeks to draft a solution, with a EU signoff on it expected in mid-March.