Belfast Telegraph

Campaigner for victims' rights Willie Frazer loses long battle with cancer

Willie Frazer was ‘a child of the Troubles’ who knew terrible tragedy in his life

Willie Frazer with his wife, Ann
Willie Frazer with his wife, Ann
Willie Frazer at a Love Ulster rally in 2005
Willie Frazer a flags protest in 2014
Willie Frazer at a loyalist civil rights parade in Londonderry
Willie Frazer's father, Bertie
Willie Frazer dressed as radical preacher Abu Hamza outside Laganside courthouse in Belfast
Arlene Foster
Robin Swann

By David Young

William Frazer has been described as a fearless campaigner for victims, following his death yesterday.

The 58-year-old passed away in hospital, surrounded by his family, after a long battle with cancer.

A forthright advocate for victims of republican violence, Mr Frazer suffered great personal tragedy during the Troubles.

He lost five close relatives, including his father Bertie, a part-time UDR member who was murdered by the IRA in 1975.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Secretary of State Karen Bradley led tributes yesterday.

Mrs Foster said: "William had more pain and grief imposed upon him during his life than anyone should ever have to experience."

Mr Frazer worked closely with a series of victims' families in the South Armagh area, including relatives of those killed in the 1976 Kingsmill massacre.

Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was among 10 Protestants shot dead in the attack, told the Belfast Telegraph: "I knew Willie Frazer all my life. We went to school together. There will not be another Willie Frazer in my lifetime. I'm gutted."

He said his elderly mother, Beatrice Worton, thought of Mr Frazer almost as another son.

Mr Worton added: "There was no better fighter for the rights of victims than Willie Frazer. He'll be badly missed."

Family pastor Barrie Halliday said Mr Frazer passed away shortly before 4pm yesterday. He added: "This afternoon, one of the best sons that Ulster ever had left this old world, left pain and sadness behind him and went home."

Mr Frazer was the leader of Markethill-based victims' group the Family Research and Policy Unit (FRPU). Previously, in 1998, he founded Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair) to provide support for victims of republican violence. He stood down when the group's funding was halted in 2012.

He had battled ill health for several years, and had been diagnosed with cancer in 2010.

A polarising character, Mr Frazer had many supporters in the loyalist community but was seen as divisive by many republicans and nationalists.

He once said he had received enough death threats in his life to paper the walls of his house with. Last year a sign placed on a republican anti-internment bonfire in Newry made reference to his murdered father.

Even as he fought for life in his final days, Mr Frazer was trolled online. An image of him in a hospital bed was shared online, prompting an investigation.

And last night a fake Twitter account appeared online, mocking Mr Frazer.

Mrs Foster was one of a series of politicians to pay tribute to him. She said: "There can be no doubt that the brutal murder of five family members, including his father, shaped and defined his life. William dedicated himself to fighting for victims of the republican terrorism he experienced so personally growing up in South Armagh.

"William was fiercely independent and never afraid to speak his mind."

Often controversial, Mr Frazer was charged by police after taking part in the contentious Union flag protests at Belfast City Hall in 2012. At a subsequent court appearance, he arrived dressed as radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza, claiming he was being prosecuted using legislation designed to combat hardline Islamic preachers. The charges against him were dropped.

Former Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said Mr Frazer "was in many respects a child of the Troubles".

He added: "I worked with William over many years. We didn't always agree and sometimes we differed in our approach to political developments, but I liked and respected him.

"He was fearless in his approach and some people didn't either like or appreciate that - but they had not lived the experience that he had, growing up in South Armagh and the loss of so many family members."

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann MLA said: "Having got to know William over recent years, his commitment to supporting victims could not be questioned."

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said she had got to know Mr Frazer though her work with victims of the Troubles.

"The conflict shaped Willie," she said.

"I always found him very cordial when I had any dealings with him. He battled bravely with health problems for many years - but you never heard him complain."

Mairia Cahill, a former SDLP councillor, also extended her sympathies, as did Alliance leader Naomi Long.

The Northern Ireland Office said Mrs Bradley, the Secretary of State, sent her condolences to Mr Frazer's family, adding: "Her thoughts are with them at this difficult time."

TUV leader Jim Allister said Mr Frazer's legacy as a tireless campaigner for victims would live on.

Kenny Donaldson, from the victims' group, South East Fermanagh Foundation, said: "Willie was a unique individual, he had sharp wit and could be very charming. Yes, he had flaws but so too does every one of us."

Jonathan Ganesh, who was badly injured in the 1996 IRA Docklands bomb, said: "May God be good to you as you were very good to others. Take care old friend."

Mr Frazer is survived by his wife Ann and son Philip.

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