Belfast Telegraph

Flags protester Jamie Bryson banned from Stormont parades debate

Leading union flag protestor Jamie Bryson failed today in a bid to be allowed to attend a special Stormont debate on Twelfth of July parading decisions.

The Ulster People's Forum spokesman was invited to Parliament Buildings for the recalled Assembly session by Traditional Unionist Voice Leader Jim Allister, the High Court heard.

But a judge denied him permission after ruling that his presence could spark further disruption on the streets.

Bryson is currently banned from being within a mile of any protest or demonstration while on bail accused of offences linked to the flags dispute.

The 23-year-old, of Rosepark, Donaghadee, Co Down, faces charges of encouraging or assisting offences, and taking part in an un-notified public procession.

He launched a last-minute bid to have the bail terms varied so that he could be at Stormont for today's debate on the Parades Commission's decision to ban the Orange Order from returning through Ardoyne in north Belfast on July 12.

Following a refusal at Belfast Magistrates' Court Bryson's lawyers mounted a High Court appeal.

Opposing the move, prosecution counsel Kate McKay said police feared Bryson's presence at Parliament Buildings could inflame tensions.

She said protests were already underway in the grounds of Stormont.

Mr Justice Horner was told more than 70 police officers have been injured since rioting erupted over the Parades Commission's decision to ban the Orange Order from returning through Ardoyne in north Belfast on July 12.

"It's a volatile situation and police are very keen that nothing happens to further inflame it," Mrs McKay said.

Defence counsel Peter Coiley argued that his client merely wanted to sit "quietly in a dignified manner" in the public gallery.

Bryson, accompanied in court by fellow high-profile flag protestor Jim Dowson, listened as the barrister stressed he would have no involvement in any demonstrations.

"It's over-stating it to say his very presence will inflame the situation," Mr Coiley contended.

But dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Horner described the current situation on the streets as "incendiary".

He said: "There is obviously a risk that the mere presence of Mr Bryson at Parliament in those circumstances could set off further disruption.

"I do not think it would be appropriate to vary conditions of bail granted in this case."

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