Northern Ireland news

Controversial loyalist campaigner Willie Frazer dies

Loyalist Campaigner Willie Frazer died on Friday after a long illness
by staff reporter

HIGH-PROFILE loyalist campaigner Willie Frazer has died after a long battle with cancer.

The 58-year-old from Markethill in Co Armagh died in hospital on Friday.

He was the founder of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair), a group set up in 1998 to support victims of republican violence.

Mr Frazer stood down from the group in 2012 after its funding was frozen.

He was also the founder of the 'Love Ulster' rallies, which led to serious rioting in Dublin city centre in 2006, resulting in £50,000 worth of criminal damage and 14 arrests.

His father Bertie, a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, was killed in an IRA gun attack in 1975. He was one of several family members murdered by republicans.

Mr Frazer was charged by police after taking part in the contentious Union flag protests at Belfast City Hall in 2012.

At one subsequent court appearance he arrived dressed as radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza - accompanied by loyalist flag protestor Jamie Bryson who was had his mouth taped - claiming he was being prosecuted using legislation designed to combat hardline Islamic preachers.

The charges against him were ultimately dropped.

A hugely divisive figure, he was often criticised for controversial comments and was a staunch Brexiteer - saying all those opposed to the EU Referendum result in June 2016 should "move across the border".

Mr Frazer was also a spokesman, along with Mr Bryson, for the Ulster People's Forum, a group set up in the wake of the union flag protests.

In 2015, he protested against the arrival of Syrian refugees in Northern Ireland.

"The last thing we need is to bring people into this country who do not integrate into our community, who do not believe in Christianity," he said.

He also provoked an outcry after he claimed that "Fenian-looking" people were taking photos and videos of his home three years ago.

When he mistakenly confused an Italian flag with a Tricolour being flown outside a Co Tyrone primary school - claiming it was the "junior headquarters of IRA youth" - the principal of St Patrick's in Donaghmore reported him to police in 2012.

Last month, funding was withdrawn from another support services charity he was linked to - The Family Research and Policy Unit (FRPU),

Mr Frazer once said he had received enough death threats in his life to paper the walls of his house with them.

A high-profile supporter of the families of those murdered in the Kingsmill massacre in 1976, Mr Frazer had been a regular attendee at the coroner's court in Belfast for the long-delayed inquest into the deaths the 10 Protestant workmen shot dead by the IRA.

Paying tribute to Mr Frazer, former Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said: "William Frazer was in many respects a child of the Troubles.

"The cruel murder of his father and five other family members by republicans shaped his life and later career. He himself served in the UDR and he knew the cost of that service to his own family and numerous friends and colleagues.

"I worked with William over many years. We didn't always agree and sometimes we differed in our approach to political developments, but I liked and respected him.

"He was fearless in his approach and some people didn't either like or appreciate that - but they had not lived the experience that he had, growing up in South Armagh and the loss of so many family members."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said Mr Frazer was never afraid to speak his mind.

"William had more pain and grief imposed upon him during his life than anyone should ever have to experience," she said.

"William dedicated himself to fighting for victims of the republican terrorism he experienced so personally growing up in South Armagh.

"I greatly valued his honest viewpoint as well as the friendship and support he offered me on many occasions."

Leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party Jim Allister said: "I am profoundly sorry to learn of the passing of William Frazer. William's passion for innocent victims and desire to honour the memory of those in his own family who paid the supreme sacrifice at the hands of terrorists is beyond question. In the face of many trials and setbacks, William was always able to come back.

"Now his struggle is over, it behoves politicians to honour his memory by ensuring that the past is not rewritten. We must all ensure that innocent victims are not forgotten.

"I extend my heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends and like countless others across Northern Ireland will remember them in my prayers in the coming days."

Mr Frazer is survived by his wife Ann and son Phillip.

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