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Jamie Bryson and Mick Wallace – the odd couple rocking the NAMA boat

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday Life)

Let's be blunt about it. Outside his loyalist fan club, Jamie Bryson has, until recently, been regarded as a wee b***** – and the 'b' word in that phrase isn't blogger.

But, as Jamie has produced a steady stream of reports carrying explosive allegations on NAMA, he has secured a grudging admiration from across the political spectrum.

There were people, who wouldn't be seen within a mile of a flag protest, wishing him well as he prepared to give evidence to Stormont's Finance Committee last Wednesday.

The complex and detailed nature of the NAMA allegations makes it hard for the public to get to grips with the subject. But ordinary people in Northern Ireland are intrigued by what may or may not have transpired in business and political circles.

The DUP is a party which boasts of its strong connections to unionist grassroots so it was ill-advised of it to try to prevent Bryson giving his evidence in public.

As Jamie climbed the steps to Parliament Buildings, the impression was of a working-class lad whom the establishment thought should know his place.

Bryson conducted himself impeccably, adhering to agreed boundaries in his evidence and making no slip-ups under questioning.  He laid out a series of events and invited us to join the dots.

Jamie alleged that Peter Robinson was one of five people due to be paid a success fee from the £1.2 billion NAMA property sell-off. But he didn't prove his claim. There was no smoking gun.

Yet the fact that the First Minister had to issue denials to allegations made by someone who accompanied Willie 'Abu Hamza' Frazer to court – in a long black wig with his mouth covered in duct tape – showed the impact of his allegations.

Peter Robinson has vehemently denied Bryson's claims and described his Stormont performance as a pantomime. 

But Robinson as a politician will be mindful about how, regardless of the veracity of Bryson's claims, they are perceived by the public. 

His image problems began not with Jamie's evidence last Wednesday, but with the revelation in 2010 of that £5 land deal, and media claims of the so-called Swish family Robinson's lavish lifestyle.

These are just some of the reasons why Jamie Bryson has an audience.  And clearly he has political sources and businessmen supplying him with information.

It was another controversial character who broke the NAMA story – bankrupt builder and socialist TD, Mick Wallace.  With his flowing tresses and penchant for pink polo shirts, Wallace is like Goldilocks meets Tarzan on the benches of Dáil Eireann.

Yet look what's been revealed since he made his original allegations in July. Mick and Jamie may be the odd couple forging forward, but the public are paying attention.

September 29, 2015

This article appeared in the September 27, 2015 edition of the Sunday Life.

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