Northern Ireland news

Jamie Bryson denies involvement in banners targeting Sinn Féin's John Finucane

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson
Brendan Hughes

LOYALIST blogger Jamie Bryson has denied being behind a series of controversial banners targeting Sinn Féin election candidate John Finucane and his family.

Mr Bryson defended the displays and criticised "Sinn Féin who talk about 'sinister banners'" while they "continue glorify the IRA".

Several loyalist banners have been erected against Mr Finucane, while another banner targets the SDLP's Claire Hanna.

Police are examining whether the displays against the Westminster election candidates could constitute a criminal offence such as a "hate incident or hate crime".

One which targeted Mr Finucane was removed by Belfast council under police guard on Monday from a council playpark in the loyalist Tigers Bay area.

A banner targeting Sinn Féin's John Finucane in the loyalist Tigers Bay area of north Belfast which has been removed

Mr Bryson was asked on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show yesterday whether he was involved in the erection of the banners or discussions around organising them.

Read More: Banners against John Finucane 'utterly offensive' says secretary of state

"I have many discussions with many people all the time, you know, politicians, community activists, unionists, loyalists – I talk to many people on a daily basis. I'm not going to get into private conversations I've had with people," he said.

"But I'm telling you I did not organise and I did not put up the banners."

He added: "I am not behind the banners. I am not orchestrating this as some people may like to say, and the notion that I would be orchestrating this in all of these geographical locations is absolutely ridiculous, that one person would be behind all of this.

"It's just an effort to create one particular bogeyman. It's an absolute nonsense."

A banner in south Belfast targeting the SDLP's Claire Hanna. Picture by Hugh Russell

Defending the banners, Mr Bryson said Sinn Féin are "trying to ride two horses" and "can't have it both ways".

"This is Sinn Féin who talk about 'sinister banners'. This is the same Sinn Féin that continue glorify the IRA," he said.

The banners, which include offensive and false allegations, come amid tensions over two constituencies which are expected to be closely fought in the December 12 election.

Mr Finucane is hoping to take the North Belfast seat from DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, while Ms Hanna is vying to unseat the DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly in South Belfast.

One banner off west Belfast's Shankill Road attacks Mr Finucane and his family, including his father Pat Finucane who was murdered by loyalists in 1989.

In south Belfast, a banner against Ms Hanna asks if Shankill bomber Sean Kelly would be campaigning for the Westminster candidate – a suggestion dismissed by the SDLP.

It follows Sinn Féin standing aside in some constituencies including South Belfast in order to back other anti-Brexit candidates. The SDLP is likewise not running in North Belfast.

Sinn Féin leader Mary-Lou McDonald condemned the "sinister and dangerous campaign of threats and intimidation" against the Finucanes, while Mr Eastwood said the banners were "seeking to sow hatred and division".

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