Brian Ervine: “The media are fixated with the paramilitary link…”

The new PUP leader, Brian Ervine, had just been telling the News Letter of the “tremendous work [they are doing] on the ground that hardly ever gets reported on.”

Prior to the annual conference earlier this month, a vote was taken on maintaining the party’s link with the paramilitary UVF and Red Hand Commando.

The vote was based on a clearly defined written defnition of the link issued to members prior to the meeting. There were six points listed in the document including a reminder that the link “bears its roots out of Long Kesh”.

Another one stated: “The PUP cannot and will not be used as an apologist for any kind of violence or criminal behaviour or by anyone who decides to call him or herself a loyalist under a flag of convenience.”

But following last night’s serious rioting in the Rathcoole Estate, Newtownabbey, which included an assault on a bus driver, a local PUP representative found himself in a familiar position.

Ken Wilkinson, a representative of the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party, said he understood the trouble was linked to three searches in the area over the past two days by officers from the Historical Enquiries Team.

He said that “the way a lot of these searches were carried out leaves a lot to be desired”, adding that one of the houses raided belonged to a lady in bad health.

“I spoke to a district commander today and told him about the frustration that was on the ground.

“Obviously this has not been adhered to, and this is the result of it here tonight.”