LOYALIST activist Jamie Bryson has lost an appeal against the denial of leave to court two Stormont ministers behind an unsuccessful legal attempt to force police to suppress a contentious bonfire.
He returned to court in a fresh attempt to obtain a statement that Sinn Féin’s Deirdre Hargey and former SDLP representative Nichola Mallon acted unlawfully without the consent of their fellow executives.
But with the case of an Eleventh Night bonfire in north Belfast last July already ruled academic, top judges rejected his new offer to hear the challenge in full.
Ms Hargey, the Communities Minister, and Ms Mallon, the then Infrastructure Minister, took emergency legal action last summer to force the PSNI to intervene at the Tigers Bay bonfire.
At the time, police declined to intervene due to concerns about potential disorder and risk to the public.
The ministers’ joint action was dismissed, along with a similar dispute by a nationalist resident of the nearby borough of New Lodge.
Mr. Bryson represented the Tigers Bay Bonfire Group as a notified party in these matters.
He then launched a judicial review action against the departments, citing a violation of the ministerial code. Under Stormont’s rules, any matter deemed material, controversial and cross-cutting must be subject to the consent of the full executive.
Mr Bryson argued the ministers had acted illegally and sought to stop them mounting future ‘solo races’.
In January this year, the High Court dismissed her challenge on the grounds that she had gone academic. But Mr Bryson’s lawyer, former Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin QC, disputed that conclusion at a rehearing where he insisted ministers had no power to act as they did.
Neasa Murnaghan QC, for both departments, countered that circumstances had changed since last July, with Ms Mallon no longer in post and the possibility of other ministers taking a different view on any future dispute.
Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Treacy said the reasons for the decision will be given in due course.
Outside court, Mr Bryson claimed his substantive legal argument had been accepted and ministers had been given a ‘shot through their bows’.