Jamie Bryson tells committee Belfast Agreement ‘a moral stain’

The loyalist blogger and activist, Jamie Bryson.  Pic by Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
The loyalist blogger and activist, Jamie Bryson. Pic by Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson has told the Northern Ireland Affairs committee the Belfast Agreement “is a moral stain on the British parliament.”

Mr Bryson, listed as a representative of Unionist Voice Policy Studies, appeared before the committee this morning for the session entitled ‘Devolution and democracy in Northern Ireland – dealing with the deficit’.

In a blistering attack on the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Bryson told the committee: “If people took to the streets and said ‘we’re going to burn down London, unless we can have a mandatory coalition, we’re going to blow London up’, would you expect the British parliament to humiliate itself and say ‘okay, we will change our system of government to ensure that you won’t shoot and bomb us’?

“Democratic systems should never be held hostage to terrorism, to the gun, to threats of violance, and the Belfast Agreement was a surrender to IRA terrorism to stop them bombing England.”

He added: “And that is the truth. That is a moral stain on the British parliament.”

The pro-Brexit Labour MP Kate Hoey, who faced criticism earlier this week after declaring the Good Friday Agreement “unsustainable”, likened the reaction to criticism of the peace-accord as akin to that of “killing babies at birth or something”.

She asked Mr Bryson: “Do you think it is quite possible in Northern Ireland to be absolutely, 100 per cent in favour of peace, and against violence, against paramilitaries and against all of the things that are spoiling people’s lives, and yet want to have a look at how we make the institutions in Northern Ireland actually work better?”

Jamie Bryson replied: “Absolutely. If we get to a point where you can’t challenge a piece of legislation, you can’t challenge a government policy, because if you do you must be in favour of violence - it has been my view a moral blackmail at the heart of the Belfast Agreement.

“That peace and the process are entwined. The process as proposed in the ‘98 Act essentially says ‘well, you can’t have one without the other’.”

He continued: “That essentially gives a veto to those that would threaten violence. I’ve seen some of the criticism directed towards yourself, Owen Patterson and Daniel Hannan in the last number of days for, quite reasonably, raising issues in relation to the Belfast Agreement.

“I would say to all those people that if you criticise the Belfast Agreement ‘oh, you’re risking peace’. I would pose the question to them, well, who is threatening violence?”

Mr Bryson added: “It’s an easy way out to shut down debate, that those in favour of the ‘98 Act, those in favour of the Belfast Agreement, to shout as loudly as they can ‘you’re risking peace by daring to challenge it’.”