Loyalist Willie Young has told Unionist Voice that he is has felt “compelled to respond” after a Sunday World article published (16th December) made a number of allegations against him, including that he was a ‘tout’.
The article alleged that Mr Young had been ejected from a pub in east Belfast and further went on to state that the North Belfast loyalist had been “exposed as a police informer” in a 2007 Police Ombudsman’s report.
Despite the severity of the allegations, Mr Young was not contacted for comment and the loyalist has told Unionist Voice that he feels this is “plainly unfair”.
In line with our commitment to provide a voice to all sections of the grassroots unionist community, especially those persons who have been demonised and isolated, we have published in full the statement released exclusively by Mr Young to Unionist Voice tonight.
“I was not approached nor offered any opportunity to comment on any of the allegations printed about me in today’s (16 December) Sunday World newspaper.
Analysis-By Jamie Bryson
Willie Young is a name many people will recognise due to the large volume of unsubstantiated newspaper stories and articles he has been the subject of over the years.
The typical defence of this type of journalism is that it is in the public interest, another school of thought is that it can – and has – placed people’s lives and the lives of their family members at risk over the years.
Willie Young has a past, he’s not alone, there are many people in Northern Ireland who do, some of whom are currently in government or hold high profile influential positions in ‘civic’ society.
If he ever was, or is, involved in crime then he should be subject to the same due process of the criminal justice system as everyone else. I make no plea for anyone to have immunity for criminal offences or to evade legitimate public interest scrutiny.
But the case of Mr Young raises more fundamental points. Does he deserve to be treated equally in terms of journalistic protocol, and does he deserve the same privacy considerations under the law as everyone else? I say yes.
This weekend the Sunday World ran an article which made a serious allegation against Willie Young- namely that he was a police informant. I do not know as a cast iron fact whether this is true, or not, but the man has went on the record and said it is false and malicious. I believe him.
The thought process I have just described outlines the harm done to Willie Young by virtue of the allegation made against him. How does the man ever disapprove the allegation? Each person will make a judgement call on whether to believe him, or believe an unproven allegation advanced against him. And not just any allegation but one which is almost impossible to disapprove regardless of your innocence or guilt. That seems unbalanced and unfair to me.
Willie Young was not identified as an informer in the 2007 Police Ombudsman report. Ciphers were identified. Others, some who may have their own moral or immoral agendas, have identified him based on a cipher, but where is the proof to substantiate this?
This allegation alone is enough to place a person’s life at risk and don’t just take my word for it – in paragraphs 24, 25 and 26 of the Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan’s judgement in an appeal brought by dissident republican Brendan Conway in 2014 – the court held that it was not in the public interest to identify an informant.
Therefore if the allegation, which he furiously denies, against Mr Young was true then on what basis did the Sunday World identity him. This could put his life at risk.
If, as Mr Young has been abundantly clear, it is not true, then this could still put his life in danger.
The media even add a caveat when referring to Freddie Scappaticci as ‘Stakeknife’, a man who is subject to an ongoing police investigation and linked to up to 40 murders, a man convicted of having extreme pornographic images – and yet afford no such caveat to Willie Young who strongly denies the allegations against him.
I simply advance the argument that Willie Young is entitled to be afforded the same journalistic courtesy as everyone else. He should be offered a right to comment if an allegation is to be made about him.
I do accept there is a deeply embedded culture within loyalism of refusing to engage with the media. I have argued against this; some people do not agree with my argument and others do agree and see the strategic benefit it in. Self isolation and self censorship makes for an easy target.
My personal view is you should always comment and provide a counter balance. Stories and allegations about loyalists are unbalanced by default due to the fact that loyalists for the most part refuse to comment, or more accurately are rarely given the opportunity to do so.
Regardless what you think of Willie Young, as of today he has decided to break that cycle, to speak out and challenge the narrative. That isn’t an easy thing to do.
Loyalists must demand fair treatment and balance, not simply complain about the imbalance- but actively and strategically challenge it. That is why I think Unionist Voice is serving the public interest by providing Willie Young with a platform.
This article first appeared in the Unionist Voice