LEADING flags protestor Jamie Bryson has moved from a cross-community area of Maghaberry prison for remand prisoners into a dedicated loyalist prisoners’ wing.
Asked yesterday if it was true that Mr Bryson had moved to the loyalist wing, PUP south Antrim spokesman Ken Wilkinson said: “Yes, he has.”
Mr Wilkinson said that members of the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando all used the wing, known as Bush 1 and Bush 2. “It was set up that way on grounds of health and safety,” he said. “It was set up as a loyalist wing. I was one of the people who did the negotiation for them to be set up that way.”
He understood that Mr Bryson had asked to be moved to the loyalist wing “for his own safety”.
“He was under a lot of pressure inside the remand wing,” he said. “He was getting verbally threatened by people who were probably dissident republicans.” He said the move took place on Monday.
Also yesterday it was confirmed that fellow leading flag protestor Willie Frazer will today apply for bail, having been refused twice already. South Armagh Pastor Barrie Halliday said he had spoken to the leading victims’ campaigner by phone yesterday.
“He is appearing at Belfast Magistrates Court at 10am on Thursday,” he said. “He will be applying for bail with no conditions. Everyone expects very strict conditions to be applied, such as him being forbidden to talk to the press or use social media. He says he will accept being banned from protests but will not accept being gagged on victims’ issues.”
The fact that the two high-profile protestors have been held on remand was described as “highly unusual” by criminal law QC and TUV leader Jim Allister. He said it was unusual for them to be remanded on petty sessions charges, especially as Mr Frazer has no criminal record.
At their peak, the flag protests involved some 4,000 people at locations across Northern Ireland. Most were peaceful although dozens of people engaged in rioting at interface areas in east Belfast. The protests began on December 3 after Belfast City Council voted to stop flying the Union Flag daily and instead decided to fly it on designated days.
Leading DUP figures including Peter Robinson have become embroiled in a row in recent days over allegations that there is a perception of bias in law enforcement, after leading republican Sean Hughes was released on bail while facing terrorism charges while Mr Frazer was refused bail on charges relating to taking part in an unnotified procession, public speaking and possesssion of a stun gun.
The Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said in a BBC interview that he was keen to address issues of public confidence. Mr Robinson described the interview as a “helpful intervention”.