Loyalist hardliner Willie Frazer has blamed “criminal elements in the republican movement” after his car was set on fire last weekend.
The prominent loyalist campaigner said he did not believe his high-profile involvement in the recent Union Jack flag protests had made him a target. The protests began when Belfast City Hall voted to reduce the number of days the British Union jack flies above the building, reaching a crescendo last month with six consecutive days of large-scale rioting by loyalist mobs in east Belfast.
However, Frazer insisted the attack on his car was a kind of retribution for his recent bizarre claim that the Provisional IRA was heavily involved in the ‘horseburger’ scandal, in which horse meat has been passed off as beef across Europe.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, the car was seen to be on fire by a PSNI police patrol outside his home in Markethill, County Armagh.
Local residents doubted that any republican group would target the loyalist, often a figure of fun due to his wild conspiracy allegations and other bizarre statements.
The PSNI has not said who it believes carried out the attack, but Mr Frazer insisted the people behind it were trying to ‘send him a message’.
“I will not be intimidated by these scum,” he said. He had his own theory about why he may have been a target.
“People are saying about the flag [protest] but I don’t know,” he said. “I would be more concerned about the beef thing that’s going on. With republicans, the one thing that annoys these boys is money.
“It has to be [republicans] as I have said lots of things in the past [about flags] and there’s never been anything [at the house].”
Last month Mr Frazer claimed former IRA members in south Armagh were responsible for dealing in the horse meat found in supermarket burgers. It was later reported that the ‘wrongly labelled’ meat products had originally come from Poland and Romania, and had been resold by companies in France and Ireland as beef.
Condemning the arson attack, Jamie Bryson of the Ulster People’s Forum (UPF) of which Mr Frazer is still a committee member, branded the peace process “a farce”.
He said Frazer was “a real victim”.
“The UPF will continue to support the peaceful protests and we will not be bought, bullied or intimidated by the IRA, the Real IRA, the ‘I can’t believe it’s not the IRA’ or any other flag of convenience used by the republican terrorist movement,” he said.
The Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy also condemned the attack.
He said there was “no justification” for it. “Whatever people’s views are of Mr Frazer’s public statements or actions, there can be no justification for an attack like this on a family home,” he said.
On Saturday, yhe day before the attack, Frazer had spoken at the weekly flag protest in Belfast city centre, which again saw a lower turnout. Over two hundred die-hard protesters turned out for the now regular rally, now in its tenth week.
Ar the protest, Willie Frazer said protesters would “die for the Union flag”.
“We all want a peace process but we want a peace process that will rebuild this country, not destroy it. If they think by taking our flag down that this country is finished, they are very much mistaken,” he said.
Pointing to the banner he had made and brought from Armagh, illustrated with a picture of a Union Jack flag in a coffin with the word ‘die’, Mr Frazer said the protesters would die for the flag.
“You see a flag on the coffin. That is what we put on our dead. They died for that flag. And I can tell you one thing - we are prepared to die again for it.”