Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Loyalist flag protester Jamie Bryson defends alleged singing of sectarian 'Billy Boys' song

Jamie Bryson
Jamie Bryson
Jamie Bryson as Footie, the IFA’s Northern Ireland mascot at Windsor Park

Flag protester and former mascot for the Northern Ireland football team Jamie Bryson has defended the alleged singing of a sectarian song during a Northern Ireland match in Luxembourg earlier this week.

Bryson (23) confirmed that the Billy Boys, a song which originated in Glasgow and is infamous for the line “We're up to our necks in fenian blood, surrender or you die”, was sung at the match at Stade Josy Barthel.

Just over a thousand fans travelled to Luxembourg on Tuesday to see Northern Ireland trounced by 3-2 by the much less fancied side.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Football Association said the incident has not been brought to their attention.

“Nothing has been brought to the attention of the Irish FA by the match delegate,” she said.

“The Irish FA totally condemns any form of sectarianism.

“The Association has worked tirelessly in partnership with fans and key stakeholders to eradicate and challenge sectarianism and to create a family-friendly atmosphere at Northern Ireland games.”

Bryson defended the singing of the song at the match, claiming the Billy Boys is “no more sectarian than the Fields of Athenry”.

He said: “Firstly the definition of sectarianism has become somewhat blurred, it now seems to be merely anything Sinn Fein or the wider pan nationalist movement feel is not conducive to their goal of Irish unification.

“I would not concur with this viewpoint and would most certainly not view cultural and traditional songs as 'sectarian'.

“The Billy Boys is no more sectarian than the Fields Of Athenry.”

Bryson went on to add: “I will watch with interest at how the IFA deal with these malicious allegations.

“Their recent case history doesn't bode well.

“They had the audacity to wipe out the National Anthem from the Nations Cup Final showpiece and they also went to great lengths to distance themselves from me over my one-time role as a mascot.”

The Donaghadee man acted as the Northern Ireland’s team mascot once in November 2012, for its match against Azerbaijan.

He is currently out on bail after being charged with a number of offences relating the flag protests which followed a vote by Belfast City Council to fly the Union flag on a designated number of days each year.

He is subject to a number of bail conditions which include not attending flag protests.

Bryson has been charged with encouraging or assisting offences, and taking part in an unnotified public procession.

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