Northern Ireland

Victims question Jamie Bryson defence of UVF as 'counter terrorists'

A victims group  has criticised comments Jamie Bryson made about the UVF
A victims group has criticised comments Jamie Bryson made about the UVF A victims group has criticised comments Jamie Bryson made about the UVF

Victims campaigners have hit out at a claim made by prominent loyalist Jamie Bryson that the UVF are "counter terrorists".

Mr Bryson made the comment as he responded to criticism of his attendance at a UVF commemoration.

A Sunday newspaper showed him and leading east Belfast loyalist Stephen Matthews attending a parade for murdered UVF commander Robert 'Squeak' Seymour, who was shot dead by the IRA in 1988.

Mr Bryson appeared on The Nolan Show on Monday where he responded to criticism of his attendance.

Presenter Stephen Nolan asked Mr Bryson why he had been critical of a recent republican commemoration in south Armagh, yet later went on to attend a loyalist one.

Read More: Victims group condemns 'stinking historical revisionism' following Jamie Bryson UVF comments

Asked if he was a UVF supporter, he said he was not, and added: "The UVF is a proscribed organisation".

"There are many people who take the view that loyalists in a conflict situation, which we are not in by the way, in the absence of the security forces being able to defend those communities, had a right to defend themselves. And I've said that to people over the years. There's nothing shocking about this, nothing new," Mr Bryson said.

“In a conflict situation, I view the IRA as terrorists and, as Peter Robinson said in the 1980s, I view the actions of the UVF and UDA in a conflict situation as counter terrorism as responding to the IRA."

The UVF was responsible for some of the worst atrocities during the Troubles and is believed to have killed more than 500 people.

While it has been claimed the organisation was engaged in '"counter terrorism" it was responsible for the first murder of the recent conflict - three years before republicans claimed their first victim.

Victims campaigner Denise Mullen's father, SDLP activist Denis Mullen (35), was shot dead by the Glenanne Gang near Moy, Co Tyrone in September 1975. Her mother Olive narrowly escaped with her life during the attack.

"What did my parents do in 'counter terrorism' that they were shot," she said.

"A full magazine was emptied into my father and my mother was shot at 13 times by a revolver also used in the Miami Showband attack. Who were the UVF defending there?

"Their intention was to leave two children, me and my brother, without parents as they had done with other families. My parents were peace loving individuals who were not intent on harming anyone."

Kenny Donaldson, director of the South East Fermanagh Foundation victims’ group, hit out at what he called the "stinking historical revisionism" surrounding paramilitary organisations.

"Loyalist terrorist organisations perpetrated violent acts motivated by ethnic and/or sectarian hatred," Mr Donaldson said.

"The same is true of Irish republicanism, who were not freedom fighters, but rather were subversives engaged in terrorism with the objective of overthrowing the Northern Ireland state and their violence was also motivated by ethnic and/or sectarian influences.

"Those who claim otherwise are deluded and are engaged in stinking historical revisionism. The impact of their words and claims is to further compound the torture experienced by the innocents left behind by their actions."