Editor's Viewpoint: Outspoken, at times divisive, but tragedies in Willie Frazer's life gave him every right to speak up for victims of violence
The passing of Willie Frazer, at 58, marks the end of the life of a remarkable character.
He was perhaps best-known as a "victims' campaigner" from a Protestant background, but there were many different layers to his life, including the fact that he grew up in a cross-community atmosphere and attended a Catholic school.
At times he was a very divisive figure, but no-one could question his right to speak for victims of violence, because his family suffered dreadfully from republican paramilitary attacks.
His father Bertie, a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, was murdered by the Provisional IRA in August 1975. Over the next decade or so, four members of Mr Frazer's wider family who were members or ex-members of the RUC or British Army were killed by the IRA, and his uncle, who was a member of the UDR, was wounded in a gun attack.
In 1998 he founded the Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR) campaign to represent IRA victims in South Armagh, and he was constantly at the forefront of loyalist demonstrations including the so-called "flag protest" at Belfast City Hall, and the "Love Ulster" march in Dublin which was called off due to violence.
Frazer was a colourful figure and in later years some of his more notorious escapades went viral on social media. As with many others, there were occasions when possibly a moment's hesitation before posting a message would have been to his personal benefit. Mr Frazer was passionate about his Protestant identity, but those who saw him only as a victims' campaigner failed to realise that his background was different to the stereotype of the typical Ulster Protestant. He seems to have fitted in well with cross-community activities in his early days, but what changed his life utterly was the murder of so many close family. However, it says something about the character of Willie Frazer that so many people, including some from the nationalist, republican and Catholic community, paid touching tributes on his death. There were even tributes from senior figures in government circles in Dublin.
If the Government ever gets round to putting the victims/legacy issues centre stage it will be due in no small part to people like Willie Frazer.