Willie Frazer

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William Frederick "Willie" Frazer (born 8 July 1960)[1] is a loyalist activist and advocate for victims of republican violence in Northern Ireland. He was the founder and leader of the pressure group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR). He was also a leader of the Love Ulster campaign.[2]

Background[edit]

The village of Whitecross where Willie Frazer grew up.

William Frazer grew up in the village of Whitecross in County Armagh as one of nine children with his parents Bertie and Margaret. He is an ex-member of the Territorial Army,[citation needed] and a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.[3] He attended a local Catholic school and played Gaelic football. In his own words Frazer described his early years as a “truly cross-community lifestyle”.[4] His father who was a part time member of the British Army's Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), and a council worker, was shot dead by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 30 August 1975. The family home had previously been attacked before with petrol bombs and shooting incidents due to his father's UDR membership. Frazer has stated that his family was well respected in the area including by "old school IRA members" and received Mass cards from Catholic neighbours expressing their sorrow over his father's killing. Frazer believes an IRA member helped carry the coffin of his father at his funeral.[4] Over the next ten years four members of Frazer's family who were members or ex-members of the RUC or British Army were killed by the IRA.[5] An uncle of Frazer's who was a member of the UDR was also wounded in a gun attack.[6]

Soon after his father's death the IRA began targeting Frazer's older brother who was also a UDR member. The family relocated to the predominately unionist village of Markethill.[4] Upon leaving school Frazer worked as a plasterer for a period before serving in the army for nine years. Following this he worked for a local haulage company, then setting up his own haulage company which he later sold.

During the Drumcree conflict, Frazer was a supporter of members of the Orange Order who were demanding the right to march down the Garvaghy Road against the wishes of local residents.[7] Frazer was president of his local Apprentice Boys club at the time.[8]

For a brief period after selling his haulage firm Frazer ran "The Spot", a nightclub in Tandragee, County Armagh, which closed down after two Protestant civilians, Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine, who had been in the club were stabbed to death in February 2000 by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), after one of them had allegedly made derogatory remarks about dead UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade leader Richard Jameson.[9]

Frazer applied for a licence to hold a firearm for his personal protection and was turned down,[10] a chief inspector said, based on intelligence that he was known to associate with members of loyalist paramilitaries.[11][12] During the Smithwick Tribunal (set up to investigate the IRA ambush and killing of RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan) it was alleged by a member of the Garda Síochána that Frazer was a part of a loyalist paramilitary group called the Red Hand Commando.[13][14] Frazer denied the allegations, saying they put his life in danger.[15]

FAIR campaign[edit]

FAIR, founded by Frazer in 1998, claims to represent the victims of IRA violence in South Armagh. It has been criticised by some for not doing the same for victims of loyalist paramilitary organisations or for those killed by security forces. In the past, Frazer had said of loyalist paramilitary prisoners that "they should never have been locked up in the first place", and that he had "a lot of time for Billy Wright".[16] He has also defended alleged security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, stating in an interview with Susan McKay: "If you were in the UDR and your brother was shot, are you telling me you wouldn't [pass information on to loyalists]? ... See if a Paki comes from India and kills a Provo? I'm going to shake his hand."[6]

In February 2006, Frazer was an organiser of the Love Ulster parade in Dublin that had to be cancelled due to rioting. In January 2007, Frazer protested outside the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Dublin that voted to join policing structures in Northern Ireland.[17] He "expressed outrage at the idea that the 'law-abiding population' would negotiate with terrorists to get them to support democracy, law and order."[18]

In January 2007 Frazer dismissed Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's report[19] into security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.[18]

In March 2010, he claimed to have served a civil writ on deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, of Sinn Féin, seeking damages arising from the killing of Frazer's father by the IRA. Sinn Féin and the courts denied that any such writ had been served, but in June 2010 Frazer announced that he would seek to progress his claim in the High Court.[20] There has since been no report of any such litigation. Frazer had previously picketed McGuinness's home in Derry in 2007 to demand support for calls for Libya to compensate victims of IRA attacks. Accompanied by two other men Frazer attempted to post a letter to the house but was confronted by local residents and verbally abused.[21] When McGuinness stood for election in the 2011 Irish presidential election Frazer announced that he and FAIR would picket the main Sinn Féin election events. He said, "If the people of the South want a terrorist to represent them around the world as their president then heaven help them."[22] In the event, however, no such pickets took place.

In September 2010 the SEUPB revoked all funding to FAIR (more than £800,000 over three years) due to "major failures in the organisation's ability to adhere to the conditions associated with its funding allocation" uncovered following a "thorough audit" of the tendering and administration procedures used by FAIR. In a statement the SEUPB said: "The SEUPB is charged with ensuring the proper use of public money and as such has no option but to revoke all financial assistance, (amounting to approximately £880,000), that has been offered to the organisation... FAIR has been given every opportunity to respond to and address these issues. The decision to revoke and recover all financial assistance given to the project has not been taken lightly, however, given the seriousness of the issues no other recourse is available."[23]

In November 2011 SEUPB announced that it was seeking the return of funding to FAIR and another Markethill victims group, Saver/Naver. FAIR was asked to return £350,000 while Saver/Naver was asked to return £200,000.[24] Former Ulster Unionist Party leader Lord Empey demanded that the conclusions about FAIR's finances be released into the public domain.[25]

A Public Prosecution Service document about victims’ group FAIR “refutes” all allegations of financial mismanagement by the organisation, it was claimed. Those were the views last night of former UUP leader Lord Empey, after new core funding, £68,000, was awarded to FAIR by the Victims and Survivors Service. In the PPS decision document, also seen by the News Letter and dated October 2011, fraud investigators explained why they did not prosecute FAIR, saying: The SEUPB report did not suggest that FAIR used public money “for any other purpose than for what it was intended”. Report is final all-clear for victims’ group FAIR, says Empey

In January 2012 Frazer announced a protest march to be held on 25 February through the mainly Catholic south Armagh village of Whitecross, to recall the killing of ten Protestant workmen by the South Armagh Republican Action Force in January 1976 at Kingsmill. He also named individuals whom he accused of responsibility for the massacre.[26] Frazer later announced that the march had been postponed "at the request of the Kingsmills families".[27] A 2011 report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) found that members of the Provisional IRA carried out the attack despite the organisation being on ceasefire.[28]

A delegation including Frazer, UUP politician Danny Kennedy and relatives of the Kingsmill families travelled to Dublin in September 2012 to seek an apology from the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. The apology was being sought for what they described as the Irish Republic's "blatant inaction" over the Kingmills killings.[29] The Taoiseach said he couldn't apologise for the actions of the IRA but assured the families there was no hierarchy for victims and their concerns were just as important as any other victims' families. The families expressed disappointment although Frazer stated he was pleased to have met the Taoiseach.[30]

On 16 November 2012 Frazer announced that he was stepping down as director of FAIR, after he had reviewed a copy of the SEUPB audit report which, he claimed, showed no grounds for demanding the reimbursement of funding. He added "I will still be working in the victims sector."[31]

Political career[edit]

In addition to his advocacy for Protestant victims, Frazer has contested several elections in County Armagh. He has never been elected, and on most occasions lost his deposit. He ran as an Ulster Independence Movement candidate in the 1996 Forum Elections and the 1998 Assembly elections, and as an independent in the 2003 Assembly elections and a council by-election.

Frazer's best electoral showing was 1,427 votes, 25.9%, in a Newry and Mourne District Council by-election in August 2006 when Frazer had the backing of the local UUP and DUP. The total votes polled 5,587 (47.6% of the local electorate); it was a two candidate race for the Fews Area between Frazer and Sinn Féin candidate Turlough Murphy. The combined Unionist vote in 2005 in the area had been 2,446.

In the 2010 UK general election Frazer contested the Newry and Armagh Parliamentary constituency as an independent candidate. He received 656 votes (1.5%). The seat was retained by Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy who received 18,857 votes.[32]

In the 2011 Assembly elections he was listed as a subscriber for the Traditional Unionist Voice candidate for the Newry and Armagh constituency, Barrie Halliday,[33] who secured 830 (1.8%) of the first preference votes.[34]

In November 2012 Frazer announced his intention to contest the 2013 Mid Ulster by-election necessitated by Martin McGuinness's decision to resign the parliamentary seat to concentrate on his Assembly role.[35] Frazer was quoted in The Irish News in January 2013 as stating that he would not condemn any paramilitary gunman who killed McGuinness.[36][citation needed] He did not stand in the election, because he was in prison on remand.[citation needed]

Despite his earlier advocacy of Ulster nationalism in 2013 Frazer declared himself in favour of re-establishing direct rule in Northern Ireland.[37]

On 24 April 2013 Frazer and others, including former British National Party fundraiser Jim Dowson and David Nicholl, a former member of the paramilitary-linked Ulster Democratic Party, announced the launch of a new political party called the Protestant Coalition.[38]

Other activities[edit]

In 2004 Frazer invited to South Armagh Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, an advocate of citizen's militias who had written approvingly of their use against insurgencies in Central America and the Philippines.[39]

Frazer came to wider attention in October 2005 when he got into a public argument with a Redemptorist priest, Father Alec Reid. Frazer made remarks that Catholics had butchered Protestants during the Troubles. Father Reid likened unionist treatment of Catholics to the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis. Reid later apologised for the remark, saying he had lost his temper. Frazer reported Reid to the police for incitement to hatred,[40] but no legal action ensued.

In October 2011 he attended a protest in Pomeroy against the use of rubble from a demolished police station to level out the playing field of the local GAA club, which hosts an annual tug-of-war event in memory of Seamus Woods, an IRA member killed by the premature explosion of a mortar while attacking the station.[41] The station was the target of many such IRA attacks during The Troubles.[42] Frazer stated that "moving the rubble to the GAA club would cause a lot of heartache for many families. The unionist population is small in Pomeroy and they certainly feel betrayed."[41]

After attending a Sinn Féin conference in November 2011 in Newry he reacted furiously to an apology by Ulster Unionist Party MLA John McCallister for "unionist failings" in the past. Frazer stated that people were "appalled" by McCallister's remarks.[43]

In May 2012, after seeing the Italian flag being flown as part of a cultural event held in Donaghmore's St Patrick's Primary School and mistaking it for the Irish Tricolour, Frazer accused the school for 4-11 year old children of being "the junior headquarters of SF/IRA youth", stating on Facebook that "I wounder do they also train the children in how to use weapons, for it seems they can do what they wont.[sic]" Concerned for the safety of students and the school's reputation, teachers informed police of the accusations and photographs of the school posted by Frazer were later removed from Facebook.[44]

Frazer expressed outrage after his car was stopped and searched by the PSNI in October 2012 under anti-terror laws. He announced his intention to report the incident to his solicitor and the Police Ombudsman. The incident occurred outside Whitecross and Frazer's wallet and documents were taken away for examination. Unknown to police, he made a voice recording on his mobile phone. He had taken photos of the cars the police were in but police removed the camera from Frazer and deleted the images. Police provided no explanation to Frazer as to why the stop and search procedure was undertaken.[45]

Following the 2013 horse meat contamination in burgers scandal Frazer gave an interview to The University Times in which he claimed horse meat had actually been introduced to the food chain by the IRA five years before the scandal broke. He also claimed that republicans were behind "old fat cows that are 30 months old" being sold for food before adding that "a blind eye has been turned to it" and that "this is the kind of thing that's going on that we're sick of".[46]

Since then evidence has been found backing Frazer's claims. [47]

Frazer's car was set on fire at his home outside Markethill in the early hours of 10 February 2013. Frazer stated that he was asleep inside the house at the time. A passing police patrol noticed the fire but the car was destroyed. Frazer blamed republicans for the incident and claimed to have received a death threat a few hours before the attack.[48]

Also, in September 2013, when brought before court under the serious crime act of 2007, Frazer arrived to court dressed as radical Muslim cleric and terrorist, Abu Hamza. He claimed that this was an act of protest, as the legislation he was being charged under was one he believed to be designed for the conviction of Muslim extremists, and therefore should not have applied to him.[49]

In February 2014 he announced his intention to make a complaint to the BBC regarding an episode of the show Eastenders. Frazer took offence to the character of Nancy Carter wearing what he believed was a GAA tshirt, but was in fact the PE uniform of a school in Co.Antrim. [50]

Flag Protests[edit]

On 3 January 2013 Frazer said that he had contacted An Garda Síochána to inform them that he and some followers would hold a protest in Dublin over the decision by Belfast City Council to reduce the number of days the Union Flag flew above Belfast City Hall.[51][52] Shortly thereafter he became spokesman of the "interim committee" of the Ulster People's Forum, one of a number of loyalist umbrella groups established to co-ordinate the protests.[53]

On 27 February 2013, Willie Frazer was arrested by the PSNI in his home village of Markethill, for questioning in relation to organising and participating in illegal parades and protests which were centred on the flags issue. Jamie Bryson, who along with Frazer was one of the most prominent spokespersons for the flag protesters, was also later arrested in Bangor after going on the run for several days. Frazer was charged with three counts of participating in unnotified public processions and obstruction of traffic in a public place.[54][55] Frazer was subsequently released on bail. On 16 July 2013, he was rearrested for alleged breach of bail conditions.[56]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Time is running out FAIR, 11 January 2009
  2. ^ McKay, Susan (2005). Northern Protestants: An unsettled people. The Blackstaff Press. ISBN 978-0-85640-771-0. 
  3. ^ McKay, Pgs:195
  4. ^ a b c "In Pictures - Why Willie Frazer lives on the edge" The News Letter 12 February 2013
  5. ^ McKay, Pgs: 188-189
  6. ^ a b McKay, Pgs:194
  7. ^ McKay, Pgs: 192 -193
  8. ^ McKay, Pgs: 192
  9. ^ David McIlwaine and Andrew Robb killer Stephen Brown loses appeal BBC News, 24 November 2011
  10. ^ Willie Frazer: Police won't let me have a gun Belfast Telegraph, 29 August 2009
  11. ^ Frazer's gun fight victory The Mirror, 19 September 2003
  12. ^ Protection move after court plea BBC News, 27 October 2004
  13. ^ http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/frazer-set-to-appear-at-dublin-probe-1-4241723
  14. ^ http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/frazer-wants-to-appear-at-smithwick-1-4125206
  15. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-33316392.html
  16. ^ Susan McKay Bitter Hatreds that underpin Love Ulster Parade in Dublin The Irish Times, 25 February 2006 (IndyMedia Ireland)
  17. ^ Adams urges SF support for police BBC News, 28 January 2007
  18. ^ a b Susan McKay Disgusting justification for sectarian murders Irish News, 30 January 2007 (Newshound, 31 January 2007)
  19. ^ Ballast Public Statement IndyMedia Ireland, 22 January 2007
  20. ^ McGuinness facing civil court action News Letter, 21 June 2010
  21. ^ "Protest at McGuinness's home sparks row in street" Belfast Telegraph University of Ulster Archives 21 September 2007 Retrieved 9 November 2012
  22. ^ Victims group to picket McGuinness campaign News Letter, 19 October 2011
  23. ^ "Victims group FAIR has £800,000 European funding axed". BBC News. 15 September 2010. 
  24. ^ "Victims group FAIR has to return £350,000 of European funding". BBC News. 9 November 2011. 
  25. ^ Empey calls for public release of FAIR report News Letter, 8 February 2012
  26. ^ Kingsmills 'murderers' are named News Letter, 5 January 2010
  27. ^ Kingsmills memorial march postponed UTV News, 22 February 2012
  28. ^ [Kingsmill massacre - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingsmill_massacre]
  29. ^ "Families of Kingsmills victims seek government apology" BBC News 13 September 2012 Retrieved 15 September 2012
  30. ^ "Kingsmills victims' relatives unhappy with Taoiseach meeting" BBC News13 September 2012 Retrieved 15 September 2012
  31. ^ "Willie Frazer steps down from victims' group Fair", BBC News, 16 November 2012
  32. ^ Election of a Member of Parliament for the NEWRY AND ARMAGH Constituency - STATEMENT OF PERSONS NOMINATED and NOTICE OF POLL Electoral Office for Northern Ireland, 21 April 2010
  33. ^ Election of Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the NEWRY AND ARMAGH Constituency - STATEMENT OF PERSONS NOMINATED and NOTICE OF POLL Electoral Office for Northern Ireland, 5 May 2011
  34. ^ 2011 Election results, BBC News, 11 May 2011
  35. ^ "Frazer to stand in by-election", The Irish News, 10 November 2012
  36. ^ "Willie Frazer: I wouldn’t condemn the shooting of Martin McGuinness", The Irish News, 11 January 2013
  37. ^ New flag protest group want ‘direct rule’
  38. ^ Connla Young, "Union flag protesters launch new party", Irish News, 25 April 2013
  39. ^ Susan McKay US extremist calls for NI Protestants to be armed Sunday Tribune, 25 April 2004 (Newshound, 29 April 2004)
  40. ^ Witness likens unionists to Nazis BBC News, 12 October 2005
  41. ^ a b Victims feel betrayed over rubble row News Letter, 11 October 2011
  42. ^ Pomeroy police station to be demolished Ulster Herald, 17 August 2011; Retrieved 16 February 2012
  43. ^ Willie Frazer furious over UUP deputy's apology for Unionist failings Belfast Telegraph, 21 November 2011
  44. ^ IRA HQ claim over school's Italian flag UTV News, 17 May 2012
  45. ^ "Anti terror police search Willie Frazer" The Newsletter 22 October 2012
  46. ^ IRA involved in horse-burgers - Willie Frazer
  47. ^ Discovery of ‘illegal abattoir’ fuels IRA suspicions - Belfast Newsletter http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/regional/discovery-of-illegal-abattoir-fuels-ira-suspicions-1-5911821
  48. ^ "Willie Frazer: Car destroyed in arson attack at his Markethill Home" BBC News 10 February 2012
  49. ^ "Loyalist Willie Frazer arrives at court dressed as Abu Hamza". BBC News. 27 September 2013. 
  50. ^ The Sun Sunday 16 February 2014 page 10
  51. ^ McDonald, Henry (4 January 2013). "Ulster loyalists plan Dublin demonstration over union flag". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  52. ^ Bradley, Una (5 January 2013). "Loyalists to request lowering of Tricolour". The Irish Times. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  53. ^ Protests 'release valve' for loyalist anger says Frazer
  54. ^ BBC News report of arrest, 27 February 2013
  55. ^ "Flag protests: Willie Frazer charged and Jamie Bryson arrested". BBC News. 28 February 2013 retrieved 3 March 2013
  56. ^ Loyalist Willie Frazer arrested in east Belfast, BBC News, 16 July 2013

External links[edit]