Northern Ireland

Jamie Bryson subjected to 'persistent silencing', DUP MP says

A number of MPs did not attend the evidence session with Jamie Bryson at the NI Affairs Committee (UK Parliament/PA)
A number of MPs did not attend the evidence session with Jamie Bryson at the NI Affairs Committee (UK Parliament/PA)

The treatment of loyalist activist Jamie Bryson before a Westminister committee was like a “character assassination”, a DUP MP has claimed.

Carla Lockhart also said it was disappointing that there had not been a better attendance among MPs to hear Mr Bryson’s evidence, stating that it “would not be lost on people back in Northern Ireland”.

Mr Bryson was giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee which is investigating  the effect of paramilitary activity and organised crime on society in the region.

DUP annual conference
Carla Lockhart MP said she was disappointed at the turnout for the evidence session by Jamie Bryson (Liam McBurney/PA)

However, a number of MPs did not attend the session, with no representation from the Labour Party, Alliance Party or SDLP.

Several MPs instead attended a briefing by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on the Middle East crisis.

Opening the session, committee chair Simon Hoare said Mr Bryson’s appearance had generated conversation on social media and in his inbox.

He added: “We are a democratically-accountable committee of the House of Commons and we are pluralist committee, committed to hearing all voices and all strands of opinion across the spectrum of views in Northern Ireland.

“I said right at the start when I was elected as chairman back in 2019 that I wanted to hear as many voices as possible in Northern Ireland to ensure that our knowledge base was as full as it possibly could be.”

Following more than an hour of questioning, Ms Lockhart said it had been a “disappointing meeting”.

She added: “Disappointing with the attendance and disappointing that the voice of loyalism hasn’t warranted attendance by some from across the board.

“Very disappointing and I think that will not be lost on the people back in Northern Ireland.”

The MP added: “The hostility that has been evident at this meeting, the barrage of questioning, re-questioning, I believe it has been like a character assassination.

“Sadly for any loyalist watching these proceedings, they will see the hostility in which the loyalist voice is held by this Government of this land.”

Mr Hoare then intervened, stating it was a committee where there was robust discussion.

He said: “You have effectively suggested that questioning hitherto has either been disorderly or out of order. That is a challenge to the chair.”

Ms Lockhart said Mr Bryson had been subject to “persistent silencing” over a number of years and asked him why he thought that was.

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee
Jamie Bryson told the committee he was willing to engage with anybody (UK Parliament/PA)

Mr Bryson said he believed it had a “political purpose” but added he was willing to engage with anybody.

Among those MPs not at the evidence session were Claire Hanna from the SDLP and the Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry.

An SDLP spokesperson said: “Claire Hanna attended an MP briefing with the UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on the evolving situation in the Middle East, including on aid to Gaza, this morning.

“De-escalating this brutal conflict and providing urgent support to people facing destruction in the region is an urgent priority.”

An Alliance Party spokesperson said Mr Farry was also attending the briefing by the Foreign Office.