Jamie Bryson upstages folks on the hill
THE folks on the hill are not accustomed to being upstaged, but despite an assembly on the brink of collapse, yesterday belonged to Jamie Bryson.
Wearing a shiny blue suit and polished brown shoes, the Co Down loyalist first happily posed for a waiting pack of photographers outside Stormont.
Nestled under his arm was a ring-bound file with pages separated by layers of multi-coloured tabs. Speculation over what was inside was drawing all the interest.
Mr Bryson was at Stormont to give evidence to the finance committee as part of its inquiry into allegations surrounding the Nama northern loan book deal.
For months the loyalist, who rose to prominence during the Union flag protests, has been making claims about the controversial deal online.
Up until the last minute it remained uncertain whether the protester turned blogger would be given the opportunity to speak in open session.
But Mr Bryson was permitted to give his evidence in public following a committee vote by MLAs, despite opposition from DUP members.
He sat forward in his chair with hands clasped and elbows resting on the table. Then with lightning pace he shot through his opening statement, packed with names and companies and dates and locations.
Some MLAs twitched and shuffled in their seats, seemingly overwhelmed with the bombardment of allegations and information thrown at them.
When the floor was opened for questions, there was a brief silence. When the questions did start to come, they tended to focus on concerns over Mr Bryson's reliability rather than what he had said.
There were some moments of humour amid tetchy exchanges with members from the DUP, a party Mr Bryson said it's "no secret that I have absolutely no time for".
During questioning he even made a comparison to then undefeated heavyweight champion boxer George Foreman's 1974 defeat to Muhammad Ali.
"As this goes on the DUP are going to become the George Foreman of this inquiry," he said.
Mr Bryson alleged that First Minister Peter Robinson was set to receive a payment upon completion of the northern Nama deal.
However, he did not provide the committee with documentary evidence to back his central allegation.
He was accompanied at Stormont by Bangor pastor Mark Gordon, his friend whose home he sought refuge in during the flag protests.
And when the pair left Stormont it was again to a flash of camera bulbs, as the diminutive loyalist grabbed headlines away from the talks deciding the future of the institutions themselves.