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Bryson urges City Hall protesters to call it a day and engage in politics

By Rebecca Black

Published 23/01/2016

Jamie Bryson speaks at a flag protest in Belfast
Jamie Bryson speaks at a flag protest in Belfast

One of the first people to protest against the removal of the Union flag from Belfast City Hall has said the demonstrations should have stopped.

Jamie Bryson said he is proud of what the flag protests achieved in bringing the issue to the fore, but said it is now time to turn to politics.

The North Down community worker received a six-month suspended sentence last year after being convicted of taking part in unlawful public processions in 2013.

Protests sprang up after Belfast City Council voted to fly the flag only on 21 statutory days instead of all year around in December 2012.

Protests in support of the flag then proceeded to take place in Belfast and towns across the region. Some sparked riots and scores of people were arrested.

A small demonstration continues to take place in front of Belfast City Hall each week, while a 12-hour "Union flag vigil" has been called for St Patrick's Day to start at 1pm.

Mr Bryson was slammed as a "sell out" after saying on BBC Radio Ulster yesterday that the protest should be called off.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, he paid tribute to flag protesters, but said it was time to turn to politics.

"I pay tribute to all the flag protesters, to all people who sacrificed for that just cause and to all people who went to prison or ended in court because of it," he said.

"That wasn't all for nothing. It brought the issue to the fore, but now is the time to use that energy and commitment to engage in political activism and make a real change."

Mr Bryson went on to say that continuing to protest without a strategy is fruitless.

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