Ulster People's Forum: Bryson and Frazer 'united' after row

Jamie Bryson and Willie Frazer pictured together on Thursday Jamie Bryson and Willie Frazer pictured together on Thursday

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The Ulster People's Forum's two main spokesmen, Jamie Bryson and Willie Frazer, have said they are now "fully united" following a public row.

The pair gave a joint interview on Thursday, just hours after the group had dropped Mr Frazer as one of its official spokespeople.

Mr Bryson said they had argued over the "future tactics of the protest" but had now put the disagreement behind them.

Mr Frazer said the campaign group was new and "you learn by your mistakes".

The Ulster People's Forum was set up in the wake of the union flag protests that began in Belfast on 3 December.

Start Quote

Unfortunately, we're new, we're learning and we're building. And when you're building something you learn by your mistakes.”

End Quote Willie Frazer Ulster People's Forum
'Difference of opinion'

The unelected group has attracted support from many loyalists who were angered by a council decision to restrict the number of days the flag is flown at the city hall.

The two men had disagreed last week, after the forum called on protesters to stop blocking roads and move to white line road pickets instead.

On Thursday morning, the Ulster People's Forum committee released a statement to the media, saying it "no longer validates Willie Frazer as a spokesperson".

The statement said Mr Frazer had made recent comments to the BBC that were contrary to its "views, plans and agreed policies".

However, in their joint interview several hours later, Mr Bryson said: "The current position is that myself and Willie have had a disagreement over the future tactics of the protest. However, we've put that behind us. We are fully united.

"The people behind William and the people behind myself are fully united and the Ulster People's Forum will move forward in a positive direction together and any disagreement is in the past," he added.

'Mistakes'

Mr Bryson, 22, said he wanted to make it clear there was "no personal issue between myself and Willie".

Mr Frazer was asked if he now agreed with the Ulster People's Forum that white line pickets, not road blocks, were the way forward.

He said: "I never disagreed. It's just, there was a thing about the timing of the statement, but we're away past that."

The 52-year-old campaigner added: "We will have differences of opinions, there's not an organisation in the world that does not have a difference of opinion within the organisation. Unfortunately, we're new, we're learning and we're building. And when you're building something you learn by your mistakes."

When he was pressed to make his position on road blocks clear, Mr Frazer said: "Well it's basically the people who are on the streets at that particular time. It's up to them what they do.

"Some of that will be white line protests as the best way forward. At the end of the day the last thing we want to see is people being arrested."

'British culture'

After resolving their differences, the pair vowed their campaign would continue, despite a recent opinion poll suggesting 77% of people in Northern Ireland wanted the protests to end.

Mr Frazer said: "Yeah well, 72% also voted for the Belfast Agreement - that wasn't 72% of my community. The majority of my community, who I see as unionist representatives, do not support what is going on. They want the flag put back up. They want the attack on the British culture and our community to stop."

The campaigner was also asked if the Ulster People's Forum has had any contact with the Unionist Forum, the body set up in December by the leaders of the two main unionist parties, the DUP and UUP.

"No, not to date, there has been no communications with the Unionist Forum. Not until the committee of the Ulster People's Forum decide that it's time to speak, will we be speaking to them."

Mr Frazer is a former director of the victims' group, Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair).

He founded the south Armagh-based organisation more than 13 years ago to support victims of republican violence.

However, he stepped down from his role last November.

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