Man behind Loyalists Against Democracy social media phenomenon reveals identity

John Paul Whearty ahead of his show in the MAC in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell 
John Paul Whearty ahead of his show in the MAC in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell 

THE man behind the 'Loyalists Against Democracy' (LAD) social media phenomenon has finally revealed his identity, ahead of a stand-up show in Belfast.

John-Paul Whearty, a self-confessed 'internet troll and accidental satirist', will be the headline act at the Metropolitan Art Centre (MAC) in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter on October 6.

LAD was created by the 36-year-old on December 10, 2012, a week after loyalist protests broke out in response to a council vote to stop flying the Union flag every day at Belfast City Hall.

Serious public disorder followed and weekly protests continue to this day, albeit in much diminished numbers.

In the same time, LAD has grown to attract more than 65,000 Facebook fans and 20,000 Twitter followers.

In the beginning it was just John-Paul - known as 'JP' - but over time a "LADmin" team came on board, who wish to remain anonymous.

Their pictures, songs, videos and at times controversial commentary on what is making the headlines have attracted millions of views and the admiration of comedy fans across the north and beyond - although not everyone has appreciated the humour, with threats of violence and death even made.

JP said: "I started to research the flag protests online and was perplexed by the information that was coming out about them that wasn't necessarily true so I started to counteract that.

"I copied the style of language being used by the flag protesters, mimicking them, to highlight how ridiculous it was. It exploded from there."

He added: "In the typical Northern Ireland sense when someone doesn't agree with you there are often threats against your life but I have never taken them seriously because I just thought it was people being blowhards and taking nonsense.

"What were they going to do, give you a beating because you said something that was factually accurate that they didn't agree with? I would be prepared to take that beating just for the craic."

JP refutes accusations that LAD is like a middle-class bully mocking the working class.

"That amuses me as I come from Ballyfermot in Dublin," he said.

"We had poor people and people with money so we didn't have that class system that exists in the UK.

"When I moved to east Belfast I had an affiliation with the people on the streets and could see similarities between their existence and mine in Dublin in an area with a high rate of crime. Educational underachievement was rampant but you can overcome that by pushing yourself.

"I was using humour as a tool to defuse the situation - it was a completely ridiculous period of time."

He says he is not a loyalist or republican - "just Irish" - and that LAD operates on the basis of 'Parody of Esteem', targeting "anybody who holds themselves up as a public figure in Northern Ireland and puts across a point of view not really motivated by the bests of intentions".

"I meet with the team of people in LAD very rarely, if at all - we connect through the internet. They are all from Northern Ireland so it was interesting for me to bring them together.

"Not everybody agrees with the content that we produce. It's vulgar. We swear. We get criticism for some of the language we use, but people swear in life."

Born in Dundalk, before moving to Dublin, JP has been living in Belfast for the last six years.

The father-of-one studied at the Northern Film School in Leeds and has worked as a studio and locations manager on projects such as Game of Thrones, Grabbers, Calvary and Dracula.

He has done all sorts of jobs over the years, from McDonald's to a toll bridge attendant, but is now concentrating on a comedy career and is excited about his new show entitled Adventures in Ulster.

Since his first stand-up gig 16 months ago in Belfast, he has appeared at a variety of open mic nights, attended Seedhead Arts comedy workshops and now put together his first one-man gig.

"The show has come about to explain who I am," he said.

"I started to do stand up in response to personal trauma, after I had a breakdown and comedy was my way to work through that.

"I have found stand up to be very therapeutic."

Adventures in Ulster is billed as a "celebration of the nuances that make Ulster great", taking people "on a journey through life in our wee country, pausing on occasion to laugh at how ludicrous the situation has become".

JP says people can expect two hours of the "funniest comedians in Belfast".

He added: "LAD will sit in people's psyche as something that happened, that sources material from Belfast, Dublin and London, and I would like to think it would be held in the same esteem as (satirical website) Portadown News.

"We are proud of what we do, we support marriage equality and women's rights campaigns, we broke the Pastor McConnell Muslim comments row, we supported the Reduced Shakespeare Company when it's Bible play was going to be banned.

"I would describe LAD as like being in a band. We have had a really successful first album and now it's time to go from there.

"I see myself working in comedy across different mediums but perhaps leaving LAD behind and creating something else."

For tickets to Adventure in Ulster (£12) see