Northern Ireland news

Jamie Bryson defends Willie Frazer over claims he supplied weapons used in 70 murders

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, and inset, how The Irish News reported on the BBC Spotlight programme
Brendan Hughes

LOYALIST blogger Jamie Bryson has defended Willie Frazer following claims the victims campaigner was involved in distributing weapons used during the Troubles to murder at least 70 people.

Mr Bryson, who was involved alongside Mr Frazer in the loyalist flag protests in 2013, said that "loyalist people of the time had a right to defend themselves".

A BBC Spotlight programme aired last night claim Mr Frazer, who died earlier this year, had a significant role in distributing guns to loyalist paramilitaries.

The weapons had been brought into Northern Ireland from South Africa in 1987 by Ulster Resistance, a loyalist group set up in protest against the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Spotlight reported that "multiple sources" confirmed Mr Frazer was Ulster Resistance's key distributor of automatic rifles and rocket launchers.

A police report on former UDA boss Johnny Adair states he was receiving weapons from Ulster Resistance in the early 1990s. The programme says his contact in Ulster Resistance was Mr Frazer.

Mr Frazer, from Co Armagh, became involved with radical loyalists after his father and four other relatives were murdered by the IRA, the Spotlight programme said.

Defending the victims campaigner, Mr Bryson yesterday tweeted: "The loyalist people of the time had a right to defend themselves.

"Ulster Resistance evidently played a key role in enabling loyalist counter-terrorism – that's nothing to be ashamed about.

"Proud to call Willie Frazer my friend."

His remarks drew criticism from SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who questioned whether the loyalist blogger should be given airtime.

In a video message posted yesterday on Mr Frazer's old Facebook page, Pastor Barry Halliday also defended his friend.

He said he had not yet seen the programme, Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History, but insisted the claims about Mr Frazer were "not a confession".

Mr Halliday said: "As an Ulster Scotsman, of course when he's attacked and fired upon, he would defend what was his, and if somebody's pointing the gun, why wouldn't we point the gun back?"

He added: "We knew Willie, we understood Willie, and we will stand by him 100 per cent.

"Our flag needed defending and if Willie helped in that line, that's fine."

Ulster Resistance was launched at a rally in Belfast's Ulster Hall in 1986 in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, with the late DUP leader Ian Paisley and his then deputy Peter Robinson along with Sammy Wilson appearing on the platform. Noel Little, father of DUP South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly, was also linked.

The DUP leadership later disassociated themselves from the group as its paramilitary links emerged.

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