Belfast Telegraph

Alliance withdraws from Westminster committee appearance over Bryson invite

The Alliance Party has withdrawn from an appearance in front of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee due to loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson also appearing.

Mr Bryson has been listed as a witness to appear on Wednesday, February 21, for the session entitled 'Devolution and democracy in Northern Ireland – dealing with the deficit'.

In a letter addressed to Dr Andrew Murrison MP, the chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said she was "at a loss" as to why the committee "would allow itself and its reputation to be diminished" by inviting Mr Bryson to give evidence.

Mrs Long referred to Mr Bryson as a "relentless self-publicist", and noted his role in the 2012 flag protests, saying he was interviewed on television at the time as part of a group which had "descended" on her Parliamentary constituency office in the wake of the Belfast City Council vote on flying the Union Flag.

Mrs Long said following the incident, she and her party colleagues faced "serious and sustained intimidation" which "persisted for a number of years".

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Alliance leader Naomi Long

UUP MLA Doug Beattie said it was wrong for the Alliance Party to withdraw from its committee appearance.

"Alliance style themselves as a progressive and open political party but on occasion they do give the impression that they have a higher virtue than everyone else and that their opinion would be in some way corrupted by listening to opposing opinions," he said.

"Their decision to withdrawn from appearing in front of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee due to the fact that Jamie Bryson is attending, is disappointing and I just cannot understand their rationale."

Mr Beattie added Jamie Bryson "does not represent" his view of Unionism and he would "disagree with much of what he says" but that his "opinion should be heard".

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Paul Maskey

On Friday, Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey called Northern Ireland Affairs Committee a "pro-unionist talking shop dominated by the DUP and their allies at Westminster".

The Belfast West representative said: ""It has never made any positive contribution to reconciliation or the peace process.

“It was set up as a sop to extreme unionism and its political bias is confirmed in its invitation to a loyalist flag protester to give evidence to its self-styled inquiry.

"The NIAC's so-called inquiry into devolution represents a thinly-veiled attack on the political institutions established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement."

DUP MPs Gregory Campbell, Ian Paisley and Jim Shannon sit on the 13-member committee alongside independent Lady Sylvia Hermon.

Mr Bryson is listed as appearing as a representative of  the group Unionist Voice Policy Studies.

Also appearing next week in front of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee are Paul Braithwaite, programme leader, Building Change Trust; Derek McCallan, chief executive, Northern Ireland Local Government Association; Ruth Taillon, director, Centre for Cross-Border Studies; Colum Eastwood MLA, leader of the SDLP and independent unionist MLA and former justice minister Claire Sugden.

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