LOYALIST campaigner Willie Frazer has insisted he will fight the Mid Ulster Westminster election - set for March 7 - despite the arson attack on his home on Sunday.
Mr Frazer (52), founder member of FAIR (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives) in Markethill, has blamed republicans for the 1.15am incident which resulted in his Audi A4 being destroyed. The car was parked outside his Tandragee Road home near Markethill.
“I won’t be deterred by these people,” he said. “My family has been suffering at the hands of republicans for 40 years. My home was attacked by republican arsonists when I was just 12, and I have lost my father, two uncles and two cousins who were murdered by republicans during the troubles, so I’m hardened to it all.”
He claimed that the only circumstances under which he would not fight in Mid Ulster would be an agreed unionist candidate, but that seems unlikely, with the UUP’s Sandra Overend and the DUP’s Ian McCrea both spoiling for an election fight. Both are keen to test their parties’ strength
The seat has been vacated by Martin McGuinness, whose Sinn Fein colleague Francie Molloy is certain to win, with a two-thirds republican majority in the constituency.
Said Mr Frazer, “In that case, I’m going to fight the election. The people are tired of the way so-called unionists are cow-towing to Sinn Fein. They are totally detached from the people, and I want to give them a chance to vote for a loyalist who will retain contact with them.”
He added that the attack had come just hours after “yet another death threat made on me”. And he insisted it was the result of the fact that he is a high-profile member of the Ulster People’s Forum - which is campaigning against the Belfast City Hall union flag removal - and that he has “exposed” alleged criminality in south Armagh.
“All sorts of criminality is going on down there,” he claimed, “from the diesel and petrol plants to illegal slaughter houses which I believe are involved in the horse meat trade.”
A passing PSNI patrol spotted the fire while Mr Frazer was asleep. They managed to waken him and led him to safety, after which they used their extinguishers to douse the flames. But the car, which was parked in the driveway of his bungalow, sustained serious damage, and a door to the Frazer kitchen was scorched.
“I’m very grateful to them,” said Mr Frazer. “And I’m also grateful to hundreds of people who rang me with offers of a car and accommodation.”
The attack has been widely condemned by local politicians, led by DRD Minister Danny Kennedy (UUP) who is also MLA for the local Newry-Armagh area. He said,”Everyone has the right to express their views in a democratic society and this attack appears to be an attempt to interfere with that democratic right. I am very relieved that William and his family have escaped injury and acknowledge the vigilant work and quick thinking of local PSNI officers in spotting the fire and getting him to safety.”
Armagh City and District councillor Paul Berry commented, “I have no doubt this is the cowardly work of republicans. William is a hate figure within that movement, because of his continual highlighting of their criminal activities in the south Armagh border area. The PSNI must take this attempted murder very seriously and ensure that the Frazer household is protected from any further attacks.”
DUP Assembly member William Irwin said, “I am glad that no-one was injured in this despicable attack. In particular, the police must be praised for their vigilance. In a democracy there will always be differing views but these should be debated in a peaceful manner. Violence of any nature is completely unacceptable.”
Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy also condemned the attack - “Whoever did this is not representative of the vast majority of people in the area,” he said. “Whatever Mr Frazer’s views, there can be no justification for this attack on his home.”
The police have conducted house-to-house inquiries and appeal for witnesses. Said Sergeant Gwyn of Armagh PSNI station, “The quick thinking of the PSNI patrol ensured that nobody was hurt. The consequences of this fire, had it not been caught in time, do not bear thinking about.”