Flags: Bryson-Frazer dispute ‘not personal’

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FLAG protest leader Jamie Bryson has said a reported dispute with victims campaigner Willie Frazer is over tactics and “nothing personal”.

And reports that Mr Frazer was snubbed by Mr Bryson of the Ulster People’s Forum (UPF) at Saturday’s flag protest in Belfast were denied by both.

Mr Frazer said that while the pair did not go round hugging each other, he did speak to Mr Bryson on Saturday and the UPF chairman responded. “As far as I know there’s not an issue,” said Mr Frazer.

“There was a slight issue about the timing of the release of the statement,” he said, referring to last Wednesday’s statement by the UPF on holding white line protests.

“It wasn’t so much what was in the statement but I just thought more people should have been consulted. Other than that I don’t know of any other problems that seem to be coming out of the media and other places,” said Mr Frazer

Mr Bryson told the News Letter: “I am not into slagging anyone publicly but there has been a disagreement on the best way forward in terms of the protest tactics – nothing more and nothing less. It’s nothing personal.”

He said the UPF stand by their statement on having white line protests and the issue has been put to bed. “We are happy to continue to have Willie on board.

“A lot of the people who may have been the most venomously opposed to a white line protest have now seen sense on the idea and are now supporting it,” said Mr Bryson, adding he had been inundated by messages of support.

Mr Frazer said he would be travelling soon to Scotland and England to talk to a number of groups set up following the flag protests here.

Mr Bryson said he had been contacted by a number of groups on the mainland. “It’s a very positive development,” he said.

Mr Bryson also dismissed reports that he was standing for the Mid Ulster parliamentary by-election as “complete nonsense”.

“I have no intention of standing in Mid Ulster,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor has said local politicians must deal with the underlying issues of the flag protests.

Donal McKeown said the flags protests showed there were deep problems. He said that it was costing millions to police disorder rather than tackle the underlying issues.

“I believe that if anger has gone on in the streets for ten weeks, there is something driving that, there’s something genuine,” he said. “I have an awful lot of sympathy for people who feel upset, left behind, disillusioned who feel nihilistic about the future because of the circumstances they’re working in.”

Protests have been taking place since Belfast City Council voted to change its Union Flag policy on December 3.

The majority of the street demonstrations have passed without incident, but some have resulted in serious rioting and injuries to more than 100 police officers.

Bishop McKeown told BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme leadership was needed.

“We have to grapple with the real emotions of people rather than just condemn the actions,” he said.

“Yes, you condemn the actions, those who put pipe bombs outside churches when people are going to them, that’s fine, but if there is something driving that for a 10 week period then we have to grapple with that reality.

“It is up to our political figures to see who is being left behind in our society, who feels most underprivileged and stripped naked of all that was important to them.

“The presenting feelings are that we are angry about flags but there are other huge problems particularly in unionist working class, or benefit class, areas, fragmentation, lack of confidence about the future, and unless we deal with those very, very serious issues, like educational underachievement, and we have done that in the Catholic sector, then I think our politicians are letting down people and society, because we are paying millions to police public disorder rather than tackle the source of it.”