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Willie Frazer urged to throw hat in ring for Mid Ulster seat

By Liam Clarke

Willie Frazer could stand as a candidate in the forthcoming Mid Ulster by-election, if flag protesters get their way.

Some protesters are backing the Protestant victims’ campaigner to stand as a unionist unity candidate in the Westminster seat recently vacated by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

They also plan to draw up a strategy paper to present to politicians to highlight concerns raised by the ongoing storm over the Union flag.

A group called the Ulster People’s Forum was set up to co-ordinate the protests on Thursday night.

It is seen as an alternative to the Unionist Forum, which was set up by DUP leader Peter Robinson and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt to address problems thrown up by the flags demonstrations.

Jamie Bryson is a spokesman for the Ulster People’s Forum, which counts well-known Protestant victims’ campaigner Frazer as a member.

“Personally I will definitely be backing Willie Frazer in the Mid Ulster by-election and I will be proposing that the forum do so,” said Mr Bryson.

A Mid Ulster Westminster by-election has yet to be called but must be held soon after Mr McGuinness resigned the seat to concentrate on the Assembly.

The Sinn Fein candidate will be Francie Molloy and he is the strong favourite to win.

The seat has a natural nationalist majority, but this has led to pressure on unionists to field a joint candidate so as to maximise their chances of defeating the Sinn Fein MLA.

Mr Bryson, a Donaghadee man, said that the principal aim of the Ulster People’s Forum “is to hold meetings across the country, gather everyone’s feelings and then come up with a consensus as to what people feel is the best way forward”.

He and Mr Frazer both said the group would draw up a “strategy paper” based on these consultations and would invite the politicians to come and meet them.

“We will not be going to Stormont, we will arrange the venue,” Mr Frazer said.

He added that Thursday’s meeting had been held in a Newtownards community centre and had included more than 100 people representing groups across the province.

He claimed that far more groups had wanted to attend.

“We were swamped,” Mr Frazer said.

A statement issued afterwards made the same claim of massive support.

“We couldn't ask 20,000 people to a hall and hope that everyone be heard, so given the logistical nightmare (we invited) interim representatives of the Ulster People’s Forum,” it stated.

It added: “Soon meetings will be held all over Ulster so everyone has a say.

“No plan was formulated tonight, no aims and no objectives, all these things will be decided by the people for the people.”

Nevertheless, both Mr Bryson and Mr Frazer said the body was demanding a return to direct rule, a prospect that was dismissed by the DUP earlier this week.

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