Jamie Bryson has said Sinn Fein may have leaked tweets which forced its own MLA to resign – and shrugged off claims that he had more to gain than anyone else by leaking his own private messages to damage the republican party.
He was speaking after Sinn Fein MLA and former chair of the Stormont finance committee, Daithi McKay, was forced to resign; private messages had emerged in the press which linked Mr McKay to coaching of Mr Bryson on how to link former First Minister Peter Robinson to Nama in Assembly evidence.
Asked about the theory that Sinn Fein released the tweets – a theory shared by Coleraine PUP councillor Russell Watton – to get rid of Mr McKay, Mr Bryson warmed to the idea.
While earlier in the day he had alleged the National Crime Agency (NCA) could have been responsible, by the afternoon he said the Sinn Fein theory was stronger.
“It would be my opinion now, given some information I have received today, that there might have been an internal move against Daithi McKay, and given how quickly Sinn Fein threw him under the bus I think that would probably fit,” he said.
Asked if Sinn Fein would have had access to Mr McKay’s tweets to leak them, he said he did not know, but added that it had been reported that Mr McKay left a shared computer open.
But to the counter theory that Mr Bryson himself is the most likely source of the tweets – because he had access to them all and was at loggerheads with Mr McKay over restrictions on Friday’s Rasharkin parade – Mr Bryson baulked.
He repeatedly said that he may have to swear an affidavit in court to protest he had not leaked the messages.
But pressed on what assurances he would give today, he replied: “It is absolutely and entirely incorrect – it is not true.”
It was put to him that Sinn Fein would have understood that leaking the documents would have been very damaging to the party and that it is therefore unlikely that it was responsible.
And it was put to him that as a loyalist, he had more to gain from damaging Sinn Fein than anyone else with access to the tweets.
He replied: “Well it is certainly not positive for me to be linked to Sinn Fein in the wider story as it is being spun,” although he acknowledged that the affair had caused “enormous damage to Sinn Fein”.
The former flag protest leader went on to say he does not believe the affair caused “any damage to me, because I don’t believe I have done anything inappropriate whatsoever”.
The News Letter asked if his critics might not say he had a unique motive and opportunity to cause mayhem to Sinn Fein in the matter?
“That is a matter for them to say,” he said. “People will say a lot of things.”
The News Letter put the theories to Sinn Fein that either it or Mr Bryson may have been the source which leaked the tweets to the media.
Sinn Fein replied that it was “ludicrous” to suggest it had leaked the messages – but did not offer any comment on the possibility that Mr Bryson had done so.