Belfast Telegraph

Loyalist Jamie Bryson tells MPs: 'Good Friday Agreement has not worked'

The loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson has told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) "has not worked".

Mr Bryson, who came to the fore during the Union Flag Protests in 2012/13, appeared as a witness on Wednesday morning for the session entitled ‘Devolution and democracy in Northern Ireland- dealing with the deficit’.

Mr Bryson appearance had caused controversy with the Alliance Party pulling out of giving evidence- saying the committee had lost credibility by inviting him.

The loyalist was listed as a representative of the group Unionist Voice Policy Studies.

SDLP leader Colm Eastwood also gave evidence at the committee.

Asked by Kate Hoey MP whether the GFA should be revisited, Mr Bryson said: “I think the 1998 Act [GFA] has not worked. The Belfast Agreement provided the context for the absence of violence, which everyone must welcome.

"That has to be a core principle in Northern Ireland but we can’t say we have to have the 1998 Act because if we don’t then we might go back to violence.

"That is essentially giving a veto to those that would threaten the democratic system. If it is the will of the people to reassess the 1998 Act, then why can that not be done?”

Mr Bryson said there was a "moral blackmail" at the heart of the GFA.

"If we get to the point were you can’t challenge a piece of legislation, if you can’t challenge a government policy, because if you do- you must be in favour of violence- that is moral blackmail," he said.

Mr Bryson said the current system, which forces a mandatory coalition between Sinn Fein and the DUP, has not worked.

He also hit out at the Irish Government, saying that no Unionist would countenance Irish interference with the governing of Northern Ireland.

Mr Bryson added that he did not want to return to a form of devolved government in Northern Ireland that would see Sinn Fein being able to walk out of power-sharing if their "shopping list" of demands are not met by the DUP.

He said: "The Belfast Agreement was a surrender to IRA terrorism to stop them bombing England and that is the truth.

"It is a moral stain on the British Parliament."

SDLP leader, Colm Eastwood, also giving evidence to the committee, said: "What the Good Friday Agreement at its very core represents is peace, it is the first time we have properly had an accommodation between the peoples of this island and the peoples of our island in many a hundred years."

He acknowledged the GFA was "imperfect, awkward and difficult".

"It is what we have and we should not forget what got us here, we should not have such short memories to think that it is easy just to rip it apart and it won't have any effect."

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