Questions raised over loyalist Jamie Bryson's invite to give evidence to a Northern Ireland Affairs Committee
PROMINENT loyalist Jamie Bryson has been invited to give evidence to a Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
The Co Down-based blogger, who came to prominence five years ago during the flag protests, is due to give oral evidence next week to the committee's inquiry into ‘Devolution and democracy in Northern Ireland – dealing with the deficit'.
However, one MP on the committee has voiced concern over a failure to consult with members about the invitation.
Listed on the House of Commons website as ‘Jamie Bryson, Unionist Voice Policy Studies' - a reference to his personal blog - Mr Bryson, who is said to have an influence on sections of the DUP, will appear alongside SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Alliance leader Naomi Long.
The evidence session, which will take place in the Thatcher Room in Portcullis House, will also hear from former Stormont justice minister Claire Sugden, as well as representatives of various lobby groups and think tanks.
The Westminster committee is chaired by Tory MP Andrew Murrison and includes three DUP MPs, independent Lady Sylvia Hermon and pro-Brexit Labour MP Kate Hoey.
South Armagh-born Labour MP Conor McGinn also sits on the committee.
Mr McGinn told The Irish News he was not consulted about the invitation to the loyalist blogger and that he does not agree with it.
“I would be happy to meet with him individually and am interested to hear his views, but I cannot objectively see why he would be called to give formal oral evidence to a House of Commons' committee inquiry on the governance of Northern Ireland,” the St Helens North MP said.
“His appearance will undoubtedly lead to questions about the role of the committee at a very sensitive and important time, and highlight the fact that its make-up is not representative of the whole community in Northern Ireland.”
It is understood Westminster covers the cost of witnesses' travel and overnight accommodation in London.
Mr Bryson, who previously gave evidence during the Stormont finance committee's 2015 probe into Nama's sale of its ‘Project Eagle' portfolio, has recently been voicing his opposition to any DUP concessions on an Irish language act.
He was interviewed by police after the Irish News revealed he had been in secret contact with former Sinn Féin MLA and finance committee chairman Diathi McKay ahead of his appearance at Stormont.
A file relating to the case is still being considered by the Public Prosecution Service.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said members could not be expected to vote on every decision as that would be “cumbersome”.
He accepted that Mr Bryson was “more controversial” than the other contributors but said it was important to hear a “broad range of views”.
The spokesman was unable to say who invited the prominent loyalist, who is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Ulster, but that the committee chairman “took the lead on decision making”.