Ulster People’s Forum does not rule out meeting Unionist Forum – Jamie Bryson

The newly formed Unionist Forum met yesterday for the first time (see here for details).  It included representatives from the DUP, UUP, PUP, UPRG, UKIP, the Orange Order, and Loyalist community leaders (Full list of people involved here).  It did not include the newly formed Ulster People’s Forum (UPF), a group that has emerged out of the recent protests against the flag decision at Belfast City Hall (see here for a breakdown of the groups involved in the flag protests and here for my thoughts on the Ulster People’s Forum).

According to the BBC report, the UPF claim they were not invited and that even if they had been they would have refused to take part.  Mike Nesbitt, leader of the Ulster Unionists, stated that he spent Tuesday night trying to convince one of the leaders of the UPF to be part of the Unionist Forum in the future.

The BBC report provides no source or quotes for their statement about the UPF refusing to be involved.  Yesterday I asked Jamie Bryson, one of the leaders of the UPF, for his reaction to the Unionist Forum and if the UPF would be joining it.  Unlike the BBC reported, he did not rule out the UPF engaging with the Unionist Forum in the future.  He stated: ‘If the people want to meet the unionist forum we will, but only when the people say they want that.’  So, contrary to BBC reports, the UPF is open to the possibility of engaging with the Unionist Forum if those they represent wish to do so.

My personal opinion is that I hope this does happen.  The UPF, which formed shortly after the Unionist Forum was announced, must engage with the wider unionist community or risk alienating themselves and becoming irrelevant.  They claim their members are isolated from the political process.  This is their chance to be part of the political process.  They claim they want their voices heard.  This is their opportunity for their voice to be heard.  Although they position themselves as anti-power sharing and anti-Good Friday Agreement (GFA) they must find a way to represent their members as part of the political process.  The Unionist Forum is not about power sharing or supporting the GFA.  If the Traditional Unionist Voice, who take a similar position to the UPF regarding power sharing, can sent representatives to the Unionist Forum, then there is no reason why the UPF should not do the same.    The Unionist Forum will be more representative of grassroots unionism and loyalism for having them there.  If these protests have taught us anything it should be that we can not afford for anybody to be left behind.  Democracy is a richer process when everybody contributes.

Jamie Bryson will be doing a live webchat tomorrow.  For details click here.

His full statement to me regarding the Ulster People’s Forum is below:

‘The UPF is set up to provide the ordinary punter on the ground an opportunity to have their voices heard. A lot of the young people haven’t been involved in politics before and they view the Unionist forum as unrepresentative of them and feel further isolated. The UPF will attempt, through countrywide engagement, to build a consensus on the way forward. If the people want to meet the unionist forum we will, but only when the people say they want that. The protests are the property of the people and each and every man, woman and child must feel they have had a change to have their voices heard.’

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One thought on “Ulster People’s Forum does not rule out meeting Unionist Forum – Jamie Bryson

  1. While I agree with the need for someone to represent the needs of the working class who also want to remain part of the UK, this is not exactly a new thing. I believed it to be fairly widely known the DUP & UU don’t represent the working class, though that may just be the circles I move in.

    Personally I can remember a discussion back around 2007 between Martin McAleese (Irish President’s husband) and senior community representatives with links to the UVF. During this Martin was told the local community had no party to vote for (David Irvine had recently died) and were more likely to vote Sinn Féin — not that this was ever going to happen — than DUP. Again this was said like this common knowledge and had been for some time.

    This raises a couple of questions and concerns regarding the creation of the UPF.

    Given the length of time this has been felt & known then why has no party or independent candidate been formed/elected? Instead, the UPF has set itself up to be the voice of working class loyalists. That they may or may-not talk with other politically connected forums adds further concern:

    How does the UPF intend to make known the views of those they are stating to represent? How does anyone know they are representative while acting outside of the normal political structures? Acting outside of these structures how, once views are established, does the UPF intend to translate these into meaningful change for those they aim stating to be protecting/helping?

    If the UPF has an agenda to join with the rest of the world in politics, perhaps forming a party, then I can see this as a useful tool. However, if it does not, and it’s decided not to talk with anyone, then what good will it be?

    Like the rest of working class communities around the UK, Ireland, Europe and the world these communities need jobs, services and representation. These come through leadership and politics.

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