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Jamie Bryson calls for end to all loyalist flag protests

By Claire Williamson

Published 22/01/2016

Bryson addressing a demonstration in Belfast city centre in 2013
Bryson addressing a demonstration in Belfast city centre in 2013

Prominent flag protester Jamie Bryson has sensationally called for the end to all flag protests.

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson essentially became the spokesman for the flag protests when the council voted for the removal of the Union Flag from Belfast City Hall in 2012.

He said he regrets comments he made at City Hall stating that he would remain there until the Union Flag went back up.

It comes just days after hardline Unionist and former DUP councillor Ruth Patterson called for loyalists to rethink their plans for protesting on St Patrick's day.

Speaking on BBC Talkback Jamie Bryson made a U-turn and called for those still protesting to change their tactics.

He said: "I'm trying to give leadership by being honest and brave enough to say in public we need to change our tactics and think of a different way forward.

"I'm putting my hands up and saying I made a naive political statement and put myself in a cul-de-sac and that was a mistake.

"I'm being honest with the people.

"It would be easy to say keep protesting, but the longer you keep protesting and as the numbers dwindle you lose leverage because people start ignoring you and demonising you and we've seen that with the flag protests.

"The tactic is not working anymore and we need to make a change. I still absolutely support people's right to protest if they want to, but what I'm saying is I'm giving my analysis of the situation and if people choose to ignore that, that is up to them.

"I'm attempting to use whatever influence I have to articulate a vision to move things forward and if people choose to accept that that's all well and good.

"But if people don't agree with what I'm saying, well put somebody forward and articulate the vision as to what's going to be changed with continuing to protest."

Bryson said he regretted his "naive" statement made at City Hall where he said he would remain there until the flag went back up.

"I stood at City Hall and it was a naive political move by me I can't remember the exact terminology, but I said if there were one of us still standing I'd still be standing until the flag went back up."

"I look back and that was a foolish statement to make. I know that and I accept that was a mistake."

He also branded the Unionist leaflet campaign supported by the DUP/UUP as "winding people up".

"One of the issues with the flag protest was that it was spontaneous, it was a mixed bag of people

"They were spontaenous. That's not to say the DUP and UUP putting out 40,000 leaflets to wind people up didn't play a part in that.

"Obviously the DUP had an electoral interest to win the seat back from Alliance party. They targeted east Belfast because they wanted to win the seat back. They didn't really care about the Union flag, they cared about was wining back political power in east belfast."

He added that he is not "backing down" but that tactics need to change.

He said: "Once you've had your voices heard, once you've got almost international coverage to the issue, there has to be a strategy on how we move this to the next level.

"I'm very proud of my involvement in the flag protest but I've been able to effect more change this way.

"It's not backing down. There can still be a campaign to get the flag up but if you don't change your tactics you will always be doing the same thing."

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