JAMIE Bryson and the DUP. It was a strange and fascinating political journey.
After the curse of party life, the Loyalist will stand shoulder to shoulder with his leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson at an anti-protocol rally in Castlederg tonight.
It’s the third time he’s done this in less than a month.
They have shared the stage in Ballymoney and Lurgan and are set to repeat the experience twice over the next two weeks in Derry and Bangor.
Instead of sharing platforms with him, the DUP once worked hard to silence Bryson.
It defied his appearance on Stormont’s finance committee in 2015, where he made explosive allegations of corruption surrounding the sale of Nama’s £1.1billion property portfolio in Northern Ireland.
The Loyalist claimed that then-DUP leader Peter Robinson was to benefit financially from Northern Ireland’s biggest property deal. Mr Robinson insisted he never expected or received any money from the deal and destroyed Bryson’s evidence as a “pantomime”.
“It is outrageous that such bizarre and baseless allegations can be made without providing an iota of evidence,” he said.
Bryson was then the beast of the DUP leadership, who viewed him as politically dangerous. Given that Sir Jeffrey is very close to Mr Robinson, his decision to regularly share platforms with Bryson at rallies seen by some as increasingly controversial is all the more confusing.
As a respected MP and Privy Councilor for 25 years, he must be aware that he is lending credibility to the former leader of the flag protests.
Some DUP insiders see this as an “unfortunate necessity.” Sir Jeffrey is chasing down loyalist voters who defected to MOT, so he has to bite the bullet and show up with Bryson.
Mr Bryson was surprisingly polite to Sir Jeffrey: “I supported Edwin Poots for the DUP leadership. I would be friends with Edwin and it’s no secret that I have a very good relationship with Ian Paisley.
“In the beginning I had a pretty negative image of Jeffrey. But from what I’ve seen of him and from conversations we’ve had, I’ve reconsidered my opinion of him.
“He kept his word. He didn’t retract the record. What he said privately, he also said publicly.”
Mr Bryson says the DUP leader has won his “trust and respect”.
“Having dismissed him as a latte-drinking pacifier, I now admit that I misjudged the man,” he says.
SDLP’s Nichola Mallon said: “Vote for Jeffrey’s party and get Jamie Bryson’s politics”.
But Bryson said: “He’s shown a backbone and made a commitment to continue participating in them and sharing platforms with me.”
Ideologically, it is the DUP – and not Bryson – that has changed its position. In his book Brexit Betrayed, published in January 2021, the Loyalist called on the party to make Stormont “ungovernable” until the Irish Sea border was removed.
“The DUP must use every lever at its disposal within the structures of the assembly and its ministerial offices. The real way to trigger Article 16 is not through protests or civil disobedience, but by crippling the system of government from within,” he wrote.
The DUP dismissed his proposal as “stupid”. Fourteen months later, the party overthrew the executive branch over protocol.
If the DUP manages to hold a decent election and Stormont remains the largest party, Sir Jeffrey will likely try to lower the temperature on protocol.
In response, Bryson will certainly challenge them just as vigorously as he has on other issues in the past.
The problem with the DUP is that now more than ever it is embedded in the union landscape.
The party’s own actions made sure of that.
In Bryson, has the DUP created a political monster that will devastate them?
https://www.independent.ie/news/once-bitter-enemies-now-the-dup-has-formed-an-unusual-alliance-with-loyalist-jamie-bryson-41572794.html Once bitter enemies, the DUP has now formed an unlikely alliance with loyalist Jamie Bryson