A close friend of Willie Frazer’s said the victims’ campaigner reportedly wanted to be remembered as ‘a serious player who took the war to the IRA’ and ‘not as a clown’.
South Armagh Pastor Barrie Halliday said the BBC journalist Mandy McAuley contacted him on Monday this week about the report they were intending to broadcast tonight. ‘Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History’ will tonight report that Mr Frazer distributed Ulster Resistance weapons to the UDA, which were later linked to 70 murders.
Mr Halliday said the BBC journalist Mandy McAuley contacted him on Monday this week about the report they were intending to broadcast tonight.
He said Mr Frazer had met Ms McAuley repeatedly before he died in June, when the campaigner insisted he speak with the journalist alone.
Speaking to Ms McAuley this week, he asked if Mr Frazer was interviewed in hospital. He said Ms McAuley responded by reading a quote from Mr Frazer in which she reported him as saying: “I don’t want to be remembered as a clown who did stunts going to court, I want to be remembered as a player who took the war to the IRA.”
However Mr Frazer never shared these thoughts with Mr Halliday in person, the pastor said.
Mr Halliday took doctrinal exception to any suggestion that it was ‘a deathbed confession’. “If it was as the BBC reports, he was putting the record straight, it was not a confession. “Catholics do confessions in the minutes before they dies about their sins, but Willie’s sin question was long settled. He was setting the record straight, and as his pastor there is no way I will allow it to be called a confession, for it wasn’t anything of the sort.” The victims group Willie led, supported by Mr Halliday, condemned republican murders but never loyalist murders, he said. “No, we deliberately didn’t. Obviously some of the things [loyalists did] weren’t good, that was Willie’s position. There were some things he wouldn’t stand over, but in general they [loyalists] had to do something.”
Mr Halliday revealed he had also been present when Mr Frazer had met Johnny Adair, who was jailed for directing UDA terrorism. “I was in their company and they had really great respect for each other.” He added: “Willie was on record as saying that Johnny Adair’s war against the IRA caused them to sue for peace.”
The pastor disputed claims that weapons Mr Frazer allegedly carried as a haulier were used to murder 70 people. “Yes the Ulster Resistance is tied to 70 murders, but Willie Frazer might not have moved any gun that was used in 70 murders. It is something we will never know.”
Asked if Mr Frazer ever discussed the weapons with him, Mr Halliday said: “He was proud of everything that Ulster Resistance did. That is really all you could say. But he never discussed any details of his involvement.”
And asked for his view of the 1992 murder of five men at the Sean Graham Bookmakers in Belfast and the 1994 Loughinisland murder of six men - both using Ulster resistance VZ58 weapons - he replied: “What do you say? Truthfully, if you just want my truthful opinion they are of no interest to me. I am not interested... whatever happened, happened years ago. I am not even going to comment.” He added: “I do think our enemies will be clapping their hands... the Northern Ireland Office and republicans will be very very pleased.... they think they will have removed Willie but I think they will be surprised. I think Willie will only grow [in the eyes of his supporters] instead of being diminished tonight.”
Speaking later in a video on Facebook, Mr Halliday urged people not to disassociate themselves from Willie Frazer.
And he again insisted that Mr Frazer had not engaged in a deathbed confession, which he said was a Catholic practise.
“Catholics sin away until a minute till midnight [then] send for the priest and make confessions,” before they die, he said.
“This is not a confession. If it is true and if Willie said these things, it is not a confession of sins in the past. It is simply putting the record straight.”
He said he would hold his judgement until he had seen the programme.
“As an Ulster Scots man, of course when he was attacked and fired upon he would defend what was his. If somebody was pointing a gun, why wouldn’t we point a gun back?
“I’m not going to disassaciate myself, and I am not worried about the rabble, I am not worried about the lesser breeds who line up today in their papers that are read by the lesser breeds that have learned to read in recent years.
“But I am concerned with Willie’s friends and people in the group. We knew Willie. We understood Willie. We will stand by him 100%.”
He added: “We are all friends. We are all in the brother and sisterhood of Ulster. Our flag needed defending and if Willie helped in that line, that’s fine.”
Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson said the reports about Willie Frazer did not surprise him at all.
“It didn’t come as a surprise. Honestly, my view always was that loyalists have a right to defend themselves.”
Asked for his view of the murders carried out with Ulster Resistance weapons, he replied: “What happened after he supplied the weapons, he cannot be held responsible for.”
UUP peer Lord Empey said he was “shocked” by the allegations but said it would be “wise to wait until the broadcast before further comment.”
A DUP spokesman said it was “not aware of the comments attributed to Mr Frazer”. He added: “The DUP stands foursquare on the rule of law. No one is above the law and everyone should be equally subject to it.”
The TUV and former UUP Stormont Minister Danny Kennedy declined to comment.
A Frazer family member said they would make no comment ahead of the broadcast.
This week’s episode of the BBC’s ‘Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History’ will be broadcast tonight ay 9pm on BBC One NI and BBC Four.