Jamie Bryson

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Jamie Bryson (born 1990) is a loyalist activist in Northern Ireland who attracted media attention as a leading figure in the Belfast City Hall fleg protests. He is also the author of an e-book, The First Shades of God, which he self-published in 2012.

Loyalist activism[edit]

Bryson, an Irish Ulster Protestant from Donaghadee, was born in 1990 to David and Louise Bryson.[1] He first came to public attention as the vice-chair of the North Down Somme Society, in which role he led complaints that the Royal British Legion were excluding the society from participation in Remembrance Day events due to its alleged loyalist paramilitary links.[2] He became a "youth cohesion worker", and in December 2010 helped found the Community Partnership political party.[3] He stood for the party in Bangor West at the Northern Ireland local elections, 2011, but took only 167 votes and was not elected.[4]

In 2011, Bryson was active in a campaign against North Down Borough Council's allocation of Peace III funding, through which he met with Martin McGuinness.[5] Early in 2012, he was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, which he stated was to protect himself from drug dealers angered by his role as a community activist. Later in the year, he published The First Shades of God, a book which argued that churches should adapt to popular culture.[6]

Belfast City Hall flag protests[edit]

At the end of 2012, Bryson became a leading figure in the Belfast City Hall flag protests, serving for a time as chair of the Ulster People's Forum.[7] In this role he has co-operated closely with Willie Frazer. The two briefly split in February 2013,[8] before joining forces again.[9] Several times, he was a member of the audience of the Stephen Nolan Show when the flags protest was the subject of heated debate and was challenged by Nolan to explain his position regarding the street protests.[10] In a Twitter post on 25 February 2013, Bryson stated that he would not view the loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), as terrorists.[11]

He was taken into custody in Bangor on 28 February 2013 after being on the run for 24 hours. He was arrested at the home of his friend Pastor Mark Gordon, who claimed that the arrest had been arranged with police. Gordon objected to how the arrest was portrayed in the media, stating that Bryson was in an unlocked bedroom rather than hiding in a locked attic.[12] Whilst on the run Bryson posted a video on the internet calling the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) "fascists" and mocking their inability to apprehend him.[13] Bryson was one of three protest leaders arrested, the others being Frazer and former British National Party funder Jim Dowson, with Dowson the only one of the three to be granted bail.[14] In early March Bryson was charged with six matters relating to the protests,[15] in response to which he briefly went on hunger strike.[16] The hunger strike was reported to have lasted only half a day, and Bryson's request for an Indian takeaway led fellow loyalist inmates to label him as "Jamie Biryani".[12] On 11 March he was moved from the main complex for remand prisoners in Maghaberry Prison to the separate building containing segregated loyalist wings, Bush House. He had asked to be transferred for his own safety due to threats he had allegedly received from dissident republican inmates,[17] although the prison acknowledged that dissident republican prisoners were held outside the main complex in a third part of the prison, Roe House.

Bryson was bailed on 27 March with a number of conditions attached to the bail, including the requirement to sign in daily at Newtownards PSNI station, a curfew, a ban on using a mobile phone, a ban of attending protests or making public speeches and a ban on entering Belfast city centre.[18]

In December 2013 the Sunday World and Sunday Life printed photos of Bryson claiming Jobseeker's Allowance before going to work at a taxi office. Bryson originally threatened to take the paper to court if it ran with the story. He later stated he was only volunteering with the taxi company.[19]

Football[edit]

A football fan, Bryson dressed up to act as the official mascot of the Northern Ireland football team in November 2012, for its match against Azerbaijan, just shortly before the start of his involvement in the flag protests.[7]

Bryson is an amateur footballer who, as of 2013, played for Northern Amateur Football League side 1st Bangor Old Boys F.C. In April 2013 his bail conditions were relaxed so that he could play for the club in their evening kick-off matches.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jamie Bryson's mum claims he is a scapegoat". Belfast Newsletter. 10 March 2013 Retrieved 10 March 2013
  2. ^ "Group 'had right to pay respects'", News Letter, 1 December 2009
  3. ^ Natalie Irvine, "Community workers form political party", Belfast Telegraph, 9 December 2010
  4. ^ "North Down Borough Council Elections 1993–2011", Northern Ireland Elections
  5. ^ Natalie Gorman, "Ministers to meet protest group on council ‘failings’", Belfast Telegraph, 24 February 2011
  6. ^ "‘50 Shades of God’ book ‘may offend’", News Letter, 3 September 2012
  7. ^ a b "Jamie Bryson angry at 'mascot' media coverage", News Letter, 8 February 2013
  8. ^ Frazer doesn't speak for us says Bryson, The Irish News, 8 February 2013
  9. ^ Display of unity from protest chiefs, News Letter, 8 February 2013
  10. ^ "BBC denies Nolan Show was hijacked by loyalists". Belfast Telegraph. Victoria O'Hara. 19 January 2013
  11. ^ "Jamie Bryson: UVF were not terrorists". The News Letter. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "Union flag protester Jamie Bryson's hunger strike ends with an Indian curry" Belfast Telegraph 11 March 2013
  13. ^ Fugitive Bryson mocks police, The Irish News, 28 February 2013
  14. ^ Jamie Bryson remanded in custody over Belfast union flag protests, BBC News, 2 March 2013
  15. ^ "Jamie Bryson is refused bail as judge hits out in courts flag debate", BBC News, 8 March 2013
  16. ^ "Jamie Bryson off hunger and thirst strike", News Letter, 3 March 2013
  17. ^ "Jamie Bryson moved to loyalist wing of prison for 'safety'". The News Letter". Philip Bradfield. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 15 March 2013
  18. ^ Union flag protester Jamie Bryson released on bail Retrieved 29 March 2013
  19. ^ http://www.sundayworld.com/top-stories/northern-ireland/we-catch-bryson-doing-the-double
  20. ^ Flag protester Jamie Bryson has curfew restrictions eased, bbc.co.uk, 25 April 2013