Video: Leading loyalist Jim Wilson in webchat

A leading east Belfast loyalist faced readers’ questions today during a live webchat with the News Letter.

Jim Wilson is an ex-PUP member and, according to his own description, “a former Red Hand Commando internee from 1973”.

Jim Wilson

Jim Wilson

To follow the debate click here.

Mr Wilson has been heavily involved in community work in the east Belfast area for a number of years, and a key spokesperson on the ground during the recent run of protests following the decision to limit the flying of the Union flag over Belfast City Hall.

The community representative visited the News Letter offices to answer questions from readers.

He follows prominent protestor Jamie Bryson who spoke to readers last week, and UUP member Basil McCrea, who answered live questions before Christmas.

Speaking to the News Letter recently, Mr Wilson said the causes of the protests - and subsequent riots - are many.

“It has been an accumulation of things,” he said.

“People are giving out easy soundbites and blaming paramilitaries. That is very easy to do when you have not got evidence. But in reality, most of it is Facebook-driven.

“People need to get real. I have been pleading with police not to point the finger [at the UVF] unless they have the evidence. Otherwise it makes it very difficult to get people on the ground to help. It makes it harder for us to go and talk to people [who can help to keep things calm] because they are being blamed for things they didn’t do.

Mr Wilson added that he had “condemned all violence” from the start – but has not called off the protests “because you need to be realistic about what you can achieve”.