Loyalist flag protester Jamie Bryson has at least one thing right.
On last week’s Stephen Nolan show, the colourful football mascot hit out at PSNI Superintendent Sean Wright for arguing on UTV for the courts to impose heavier sentences for flag-related offences. What’s that to do with the police?, Jamie demanded to know. Did Superintendent Wright now see himself as a judge as well as a policeman?
A pertinent question. A range of sentences for particular crimes is laid down by the legislature. The courts hand out fines or jail terms within these guidelines. The function of the police is to gather evidence, make the case and deliver the defendant to the appropriate authorities.
Can we now expect PSNI officers to speak out against sentences they consider too stringent? Or hear from them when they want the courts to crack down harder?
From the point of view of policing, Superintendent Wright is heading down a dangerous road.
I suspect Jamie’s intervention would have attracted more scepticism were it not for the unpopularity of Jamie and his straggle of followers - particularly with commentators of a certain class.
You can tell there’s an element of snobbery involved any time reference is made to “flegs”. If the accents of working-class Catholics were systematically mocked in this way, there would rightly be shouts of “racism”, “sectarianism”, etc.
But you can say anything you like these days about the Prod proletariat. Used, abused and then abandoned by their traditional leaders, and with no background in organising on their own account - because past generations didn’t have to - they have become fair game for a certain element out to show how far they have risen above the rough multitude
Given a choice between Jamie and, say, Nigel Dodds, I’m with Baby-face Bryson.
The flag protestors are tapping into real anger - and then channelling it in a futile direction. They sorely need a new direction - which they are not going to find by following Jamie or the fantasist Willie Frazier.