May 25th, 2016
NewsNorthern Ireland

Flags protester Jamie signs on dole then goes to work

Northern IrelandBy Steven Moore
Jamie Bryson leaving the dole office in Bangor
Jamie Bryson leaving the dole office in Bangor
The taxi office where Bryson works
The taxi office where Bryson works
Jamie Bryson walking to work
Jamie Bryson walking to work

Dole snoops are set to probe leading loyalist and European election candidate Jamie Bryson for suspected benefit fraud.

We understand the Social Security Agency has been informed that the 23-year-old has been claiming income support while sneakily working for a taxi cab firm in Bangor.

Last night Jamie Bryson bizarrely blamed the IRA and the PSNI for telling us. And he also told another Sunday newspaper after our story was published that he was working there for free.

If true the allegations could have a disastrous impact on his European election hopes in six months.

The Sunday World carried out a detailed investigation to see if the allegations were true.

We watched Bryson, from Rosepark in Donaghadee, arrive at Crown Buildings on Hamilton Road, Bangor where he signs on every week.

Wearing a bobble hat, grey hoody and blue body-warmer the controversial flag protester parked his Vauxhall in a nearby housing estate and walked into the government building at 12.43pm.

Bryson spent just under five minutes in the ‘broo’ office and 11 minutes later Bryson arrived in High Street where he turned in for his afternoon shift at Bangor taxi firm Kare Kabs.

Bryson has spent the last few months answering the phones for Bangor’s largest taxi rank.

The Sunday World made several calls to Kare Kabs throughout the week and recorded Jamie answering and giving prices for various fares.

On Friday we returned to Kare Cabs were he was working an early morning shift and watched Jamie leave the taxi firm at 1pm.

The Sunday World has also learnt Jamie represented the cab company at a recent employment tribunal.

Although not officially there as a legal representative, we understand he was present as a lay representative for the case which saw three women accuse the firm of breaching employment laws.

The result of the tribunal is yet to be issued.

The Sunday World understands the allegations have been floating around on Twitter for a couple of weeks but Jamie, who is a rampant Tweeter, has largely ignored them.

He has claimed to some that he has only been working ten hours a week and so his dole money is not affected.

However the Sunday World understands he was due to work 28 hours this week and is supposed to be working today.

When the Sunday World confronted Bryson with the allegations over two phone calls he refused to deny them.

At first he refused to talk to us but when we told him we had heard he was doing the double he claimed “the peelers” must have told us and then he asked us to ring him back in five minutes.

When we phoned him back he immediately wanted to know if we had any evidence.

We didn’t tell him what evidence we had and instead told him we had heard about the claims.

Bryson cockily replied: “Well you can’t really print something in the paper something you’ve just heard. I hear lots of things.”

He then refused to answer our questions about whether he was signing on or working.

When we told him we believed he was doing both he went on a bizarre rant that the police and IRA must have told us.

He said: “Well probably the peelers have told you that or probably the IRA but you can’t really distinguish between them two – so I don’t know whatever one you want to pick with.”

He continued to refuse to confirm or deny the allegations and when we said he would be breaking the law he replied: “Says who? says you? Do you know what, see if you think I’m breaking the law, away you down to your mates in the PSNI and tell them – you go ahead and do that.”

Within an hour of that phonecall a legal letter was faxed to our office on behalf of Jamie Bryson warning us not to run the story as the allegations were “unfounded and erroneous”.

On Friday night Bryson was being accused on Twitter of ‘doing the double’ by working in a taxi firm called Kare Kabs.

Incredibly Bryson stated: “I refute those allegations. I have never worked in a taxi office in my life.”

He then blocked the person called @MarkyshazzoSS and refused to discuss the allegations further.

Last week Bryson had serious charges of incitement withdrawn against him and on Monday a judge lifted a ban on making public speeches, using social media and giving press interviews.

Despite his age Bryson has been embroiled in controversy for several years – ever since he appeared in this paper for upsetting residents in well-to-do Helen’s Bay by plastering their area in union and Northern Ireland flags.

In 2011 Bryson asked to be interviewed by this paper and posed for pictures where he made allegations that he was being harassed by the police.

That happened just after he was scooped and quizzed by cops about allegedly  possessing an offensive weapon.

He was later convicted of possession of a knife after his car was stopped by police as he drove through the village of Groomsport.

Last year Bryson shot to prominence as one of the leading union flag protesters.

The Sunday World caught Bryson on video in January during a parade past Short Strand which ended in serious violence.

Bryson could be seen raising his fist and cheering loudly at the moment a brick smashed the window of a property in the nationalist estate.

He gave several controversial speeches and is seen by many within loyalism as a hero.

But he controversially appeared to defend the UVF and during one frequent spat on Twitter he made the claim that he didn’t view the UVF as terrorists.

He has publicly announced recently that he is going to run for the European Parliament next year.