Larne Cricket Club left stumped by Unite protest

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A bizarre misunderstanding involving orange juice and tea bags has led to a protest outside a family-run hotel in Larne.

A total of 15 members of trade union Unite gathered at the front door of the Curran Court Hotel at about 7pm on Wednesday, October 9 armed with flags, placards and loudspeakers.

And when members of Larne Cricket Club arrived at the hotel for their AGM, they were left baffled by the unfolding drama.

It emerged that the demonstration was part of an ongoing dispute between Unite and chemical company Ineos, which runs an oil refinery in Grangemouth, Scotland.

Members of Unite are planning a 48-hour strike at the refinery at the weekend in a row over the treatment of a union convener.

And as part of their campaign, Unite has been seeking to organise protests at the premises of partners, shareholders, associates or customers of Ineos across the UK and Ireland.

One such customer is retail giant ASDA, who Unite mistakenly believed to be a sponsor of Larne Cricket Club.

Davy Kettyles, senior organiser of the national organising and leverage department in Ireland told the Times: “In order to attract ASDA’s attention, it was decided to hold a peaceful protest outside the Curran Court Hotel, where the cricket club was holding its AGM.

“It was not our intention to harm the club or the hotel in any way.”

But Jonny Baxter of Larne Cricket Club explained: “When ASDA opened in the town they were running a local community initiative to help local clubs and we agreed to have a photo taken outside the store in exchange for them giving us some orange juice and tea bags.

“This photo is on the club website and so Unite obviously assumed that ASDA were major sponsors of the club, which is not the case.”

Hotel owner Graham Leitch told the Times of his shock after discovering the protesters standing outside the main entrance and “playing music loudly” in the car park.

He added: “This was a highly embarrassing episode for staff and customers. I asked the protesters several times to move away from the front door and go to the main gates, but they refused,” he added.

Mr Leitch eventually contacted police, and it is understood that the protesters left the scene shortly after officers arrived.

“I don’t understand why they had to pick on a wee club like Larne,” Mr Leitch added.

Meanwhile, Jonny Baxter of Larne Cricket Club also hit out at the protesters: “We couldn’t believe it when we turned up at the Curran Court for our AGM to be confronted by a group of people blocking the front door of the hotel.

“We had absolutely no idea what was going on. It was only when we got inside that we heard that they were actually protesting against our club because they were under the impression that we were sponsored by ASDA.

“We explained that this was not the case. Despite this and despite them being asked to move on by the hotel staff they refused to budge and the police had to be called to put an end to the protest.

“The cricket club and its members are appalled at this protest, not just because of the intimidation of its members but also because of the negative impact it could have had on the Curran Court Hotel, who have been our club sponsor for the last 25 years.

“The club wouldn’t survive without the support of the Curran Court Hotel and other local businesses.

“We still have no idea how protesting against a club such as ours would somehow make any difference to any issues they have.

“It was a tough season for the club and I suppose this was just the icing on the cake.”