Man accused of leading loyalist show of strength allowed to assist Jamie Bryson with amateur soccer team

A man accused of leading a loyalist show of strength in east Belfast has secured court permission to help coach an amateur soccer team.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 3:27 pm
Jamie Bryson speaking at a loyalist protest in Newtownards

Stephen Matthews’ bail terms were varied so that he can assist Donaghadee FC boss Jamie Bryson at training sessions and a pre-season tournament.

The 58-year-old was allegedly involved in a gathering of up to 60 masked men at Pitt Park on February 2.

Previous courts heard disputed claims that 11 people living in the area fled their homes and sheltered in a nearby community centre for up to eight days.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Matthews, from Pansy Street in the city, played a leadership role as the group of men heading into Pitt Park with faces covered by scarves and hoods, it was contended.

He denies charges of unlawful assembly and affray in connection with the high-profile incident.

Earlier this month Matthews was released from custody on conditions which included a prohibition on entering Belfast.

Bail restrictions currently prevent him from carrying out his role as head coach at East Belfast FC.

But at Belfast Magistrates’ Court yesterday Matthews’ lawyers succeeded in having the terms altered for him to help out with Donaghadee FC’s preparations.

Mr Bryson, a loyalist activist and manager of the Co Down club, attended in support of the application.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey said his client was seeking to participate in twice weekly training sessions.

Despite police objections, District Judge Liam McNally agreed to amend the ban on being with more than three others for “strictly defined sporting fixtures”.