Belfast Telegraph

Jamie Bryson accuses media of 'shunning' working class loyalists

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson (Liam McBurney/PA)
Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson (Liam McBurney/PA)
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson has claimed that working class loyalists are "shunned by the media".

Writing on his Unionist Voice website Mr Bryson accused the media of "amplifying liberal and nationalist voices" whilst only talking to loyalists about "flags, bonfires and parades".

The former flag protester also highlighted the way political commentators are referred to, saying that national contributors are often "described in neutral terms" while unionist or loyalist affiliations are specified.

Mr Bryson alleged that a "liberal elite, largely made up of nationalists" exert influence across the media, legal and judicial spheres in Northern Ireland.

He said the issues were being compounded by "dehumanising stereotypes of loyalism" which were being "reinforced by the professional class, media and civic society".

Mr Bryson said that many young working class loyalists feel "disenfranchised from the state", comparing the situation to the excuses used by the IRA for their actions during the Troubles.

"I am at a loss as to why nationalists appear so keen to dismiss those who would point out that many feel Northern Ireland is becoming a cold house for Protestants, Unionists and Loyalists," he wrote.

Mr Bryson appeared on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show on Wednesday morning to discuss his article.

"I think it's a statistical fact, if you go and look at it loyalists are treated differently by the media, loyalist contributors get far less time in the media than their nationalist counterparts," he told the show.

"I think there is a dehumanising of working class loyalists and unionists, and I think people are starting to feel angry, people are starting to feel that within those communities.

Malachi O'Doherty
Malachi O'Doherty

"Loyalists do feel excluded and I think that's a problem and something that needs to be addressed."

Mr Bryson said the issue was important because people wanted to know the background of media commentators.

"I think within the media there is a liberal elite of acceptable contributors who bestow patronage on each other, because they have acceptable viewpoints" he said.

"Anybody with an acceptable viewpoint that's deemed to be controversial is shunned and is blacklisted."

He said that comments on social media directed towards loyalists often focus on a lack of education, bonfires and flags.

"If that dehumanizing stereotyping was directed towards any other community then that would be challenged. Here in Northern Ireland it's endorsed," Mr Bryson said.

Belfast Telegraph columnist Malachi O'Doherty was also on the programme and said that there was a paradox in Mr Bryson's claim and what he was in effect saying was "loyalists are only ever interviewed about loyalism".

"There is a problem within the loyalist community, a couple of years ago I was invited on several occasions to meet with loyalist groups to discuss their profile in the media and carry out workshops.

"I did find that over and over again there was some very bright people there who you would never have expected would have come forward.

"There was also a huge resistance, there was a sense that if somebody was clever with words, that in itself was a bad thing. There is a resistance within loyalism to actually engaging on the media about their issues."

Mr O'Doherty said that within the republican movement there was a couple of "very bright media operators" which benefited them in their dealings with the media.

He also cited Eamonn McCann and Bernadette McAliskey from the "radical left".

"People with the PUL community who shine in that way probably move out of the working class fairly quickly into the middle class and they might become distinguished figures in the DUP," Mr O'Doherty said.

He said an example of this was former UUP MLA David McNarry who frequently appears in the media and could be considered a loyalist.

"I don't go along with a snobbery but I do kind of agree there is a liberal tilt in the media and I think perhaps that comes about is because journalists are people who get out more, they are people who mingle in society and meet a wider range of people through their work."

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