When I put out a call for who I should interview on this segment Jamie Bryson’s name came up. He is a controversial character and invokes very few muddled opinions as the interview went out live on Lisburn’s 98FM the twitter feed went into action with people tweeting praise and criticism in equal measure.
I wanted to treat Bryson like I would treat any interviewee, give him the chance to give his viewpoint and then give a critique to it when I could. I will leave you to be the judge of whether I did that well enough but I do believe that people like Bryson need to be engaged with, rather than ignored.
We spoke for nearly thirty minutes about the direction of unionism, flags, the Haass talks and his political future. Below are some select quotes but there was so much content that you really do need to listen to the interview in full to get all of the key bits.
I asked him if he became First Minister tomorrow what he would do in government
I would get out of mandatory coalition to begin with and if Sinn Fein are democratically elected and people want to vote for terrorists, well we are in a democracy so we have to accept that they have a right to be represented in that democracy but they do not have a right to have a mandatory veto over the government.
On why he wouldn’t sit with Sinn Fein in government
Well Sinn Fein have not renounced terrorism, they do not carry it out anymore but they have found a new battlefield and obviously the new battlefield is politically but the example that Sinn Fein set is that violence pays and violence gets rewarded. When Sinn Fein stand up and praise and glorify the actions of the IRA it sends the message to young Protestants who feel as Sinn Fein claim they felt in the seventies and people laugh whenever young Protestants say that we feel oppressed but that’s genuinely how we feel.
But would he share power with those linked to Loyalist paramilitaries?
I’m honest and I don’t tell lies about what my views are. Personally I believe that the IRA were terrorists who set out to destroy this country. Now if the British government had allowed the UDR, RUC and the British army to take on the IRA as they wanted to…there would never have been a need for the likes of the UVF. Unfortunately the British government did not let the good men of the UDR, RUC and the British army take on the IRA, so that is why Loyalist paramilitaries came into being.
I pointed out at this stage that the UVF actually came into existence in 1966 but we pressed on…
What about broader nationalism (SDLP) as a possible coalition partner?
I would happily work with ordinary nationalists with people like the SDLP; I don’t have an issue with that. I doubt that I would be able to form a voluntary coalition with nationalists because of our aims and objectives would obviously be very clearly apart.
On the Alliance party he believes they
are just the moderate wing of Sinn Fein.
Following that I got a bit of a surprising answer where he told me he has more time for someone like Gerry Kelly who is open and honest about his views and opinions than some of the more compromising views of the Alliance party. I must admit thinking to myself could there be some ground a preference deal?
On the Haass talks, he once again rejected the proposals as another compromise and told me that he received a draft of the agreement from one of the Unionist parties but would not say which party or who gave it to him.
On the upcoming elections, Bryson confirmed to me that he will be standing in the European elections and will also contest a ward in the local elections but has not decided where yet. But the real target for him is the DUP. He did say that no matter how he performs he will be continuing on his fight for the issues he cares about.
I concluded asking him about his legacy to which he said that he simply wants to be remembered for somebody who never gave up their principles for power and money.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs