UVF/UUP: crisis, what crisis?

There’s quite a few angles on the implications for the UUP of the attempted murder of UVF man Mark Haddock. Henry McDonald muses on how long it can be until UUP meltdown, given the Loyalist paramilitaries (despite the undoubted good intentions of David Ervine) are still acting well outside of both the spirit and the letter of the Belfast Agreement.Empey defends his decision on the basis that no one else is working to bring Loyalism ‘inside the tent’. Given Haddock’s alleged status as an informer, An Fhirinne has called for further investigation into collusion between Loyalists and British forces.

The Belfast Telegraph leader, draws the implications neatly together:

The danger, for any party linked to paramilitaries, is that its standing with the public is dependent on uncontrollable armed organisations, deeply involved in Mafia-type crime that leads to violent feuds. Politicians can engage with them, trying to convert them into community workers, but if they fail – and the UVF has recently rejected any form of decommissioning – everyone loses.

Even the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, is tainted by the shooting of Haddock and the PUP connection. He took the calculated risk of appointing party chairperson Dawn Purvis to the Policing Board, presumably hoping to strengthen the PUP reformers, and now must suffer the consequences. The Stormont talks on devolution, already upset by the McGuinness allegations, face new difficulties.


  • David

    The Loyalist paramilitaries are acting outside the GFA. So are the UUP, SF, DUP, Alliance (who elected E. Bell as speaker, the British Government
    and the Irish Government. Infact the GFA is now history and should be given a dignified burial.

  • David,

    If that is your position, does that mean the PUP is now acting outside the GFA? After all, promoting the idea that it should be scrapped is by definition a move against it. I wonder does Mr. Ervine agree with you.

    Instead of all this shadow-boxing, the parties on both sides should sit down and make the Agreement work for the benefit of everyone. It was approved by a majority on both sides of the border- the politicans have a duty to deliver on the democratic demand of the people to establish good governance through the formation of an Assembly and the implementation of North-South mechanisms.

    Playing at brinkmanship is playing with fire.

  • Mick Fealty

    That thought occured to me too David when I was putting this post together. As an organising priniciple, it is currently leading a very precarious life.

  • smcgiff

    David Ervine appeared last night on an RTE documentary about where we’ve come from 20 years ago.

    He is a seriously good man and worth 10 of the average NI politician. He overcame a history of involvement with violence, but if 50%+1 of the population voted for a United Ireland I don’t think David would advocate a violent response. David Ervine wouldn’t like the prospect of a UI and would perhaps leave the country, but he’d accept it. That I couldn’t say for the leader of the DUP, which I’d bet would be willing to advocate a lot worse.

    David Ervine within the UUP parliamentary party is very good for NI. That the UVF had a long way to go is sad, but they’d have a lot longer road to travel if it weren’t for the likes of David Ervine. The UUP recognise this and I hope the broad unionist community will be able to see it also.

  • Stephen Copeland

    David (Rose, I presume),

    Is your statement “ … the GFA is now history and should be given a dignified burial” representative of PUP current policy?

    In other words, having gone from visible support for the GFA in 1998, to your 2003 manifesto’s ambiguity, have you come around to being an anti-GFA party?

  • Stephen Copeland


    [David Ervine] overcame a history of involvement with violence …

    No he hasn’t – he still represents a party that is inextricably linked to loyalist terrorism. If he wants to leave violence behind him then he can do one of three things:

    1. Break the PUP-UVF link.
    2. Make sure the UVF declares, and follows, a total ceasefire,

    or, if neither of those is possible,

    3. Leave the PUP and join the UUP.

    What he has actually done is of little benefit to the PUP, of great harm to the UUP, and shows no real commitment to peace or reconciliation. It also shows an appalling lack of political wisdom by both Ervine and Empey. If he is worth 10 of the other politicians, then they are worth very little!

  • Keith M

    David, you’re 100% correct on your assesment of the Belfast Agreement. THe problem is that both governments see the agreement as their biggest success in dealing with Northern Ireland and are therefore loath to give it the official and decent burial it deserves.

    What is required is for all the parties in N.I. to have the gumption to come up with something that can replace it. A return to direct rule (with some consultation from the Republic’s government) all but makes every politician in N.I. redundant. That is not a welcome outcome for any party, no matter down they try to dress it up and would leave a huge democratic deficit and would guarantee a return to violence in the long term.

    Silly stunts like the UVF link up with the UUP are only serving to discreit those involved. What is needed is some real alternative thinking.

  • heck

    the GFA has been dead for quite a while. It was killed off when the majority of the unionists in Nor Iron decided to vote for the DUP. It this was a monty python sketch we be telling the british government that they sold us a dead parrot.

    Nationalists should now be pressing for the alternative –Joint Authority.

  • BogExile

    It’s complete madness. Reg Empty has finally murdered the UUP by a short term deal with the devil. And the devil is in the obvious detail. I’ve a lot of time for David Ervine but the constituency he represents is still fully involved in sectarian and ‘organised’ crime. The last strategist in the UUP obviously left some time ago leaving Corporal Jones and Trigger in charge. What a disgraceful shambles.

  • smcgiff


    It is my opinion that having moderates within loyalism is a good thing, and that they should be encouraged. How long did it take the moderates within SF to get the IRA to wind down? Approx 30 years, and over that period of time the IRA committed many atrocities, but SF persisted against much finger pointing and brought the IRA with them. Only those that prefer to sit on the high moral ground would contest that SF were necessary in bringing about the IRA rethink and that it was a good thing.

    It is exactly the same with David Ervine and the LVF, although at a more embryonic stage. But while the LVF still commit murders they are nowhere near as active as before.

    We could sit back and think our terrorists are better than your terrorists, but it’s better to think of the IRA being at a different stage of the same process to the LVF.

    Without SF where would the IRA be at now in the Peace process? Where will the LVF finally get to with the guidance of those like David Ervine?

  • John East Belfast


    “He is a seriously good man and worth 10 of the average NI politician”

    I wish someone in one of these Interviews would ask him the following

    “Although regrettable and painful do you believe the strategy adopted by loyalist paramilitaries in the 80s and early 90s that they should murder as many catholics as possible (any would do) in order to bring pressure on PIRA and Roman Catholic Church to cause the former to call a ceasefire was wrong.
    Also, with hindsight, do you agree that any loyalist wishing to serve the cause of unionism miltarily should have joined the forces of law and order – RUCR or UDR/RIR – and that there was never any justification for the activities of UVF/UFF/LVF/UDA/RHC etc etc.
    Do you agree that all illegal activities then and now by such organisations were wrong and unjustified and that there is no reason whatsoever for their continued existance and that they should immediately disband and destroy any weopons in their midst.”

    Lets here a civilised answer to the above before I would put him anywhere near the list of top NI politicians.

    I am amazed at how gullible some people are.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    smcgiff: “It is exactly the same with David Ervine and the LVF, although at a more embryonic stage. But while the LVF still commit murders they are nowhere near as active as before. ”

    The key difference is that SF never billed itself as the “party of law, order and all decent British things.” The UUP has. When they took Ervine into the fold, they took the various goblins, leeches and other nasty bits of his organization with him. Politically, this is another day in the office for Ervine and PUP. The problem is that the UUP squandered their last shreds of respectability for a “gotcha” on SF for afn extra seat in an executive that may not exist in the near term.

  • Stephen Copeland


    Two small points:

    1. The PUP’s balaclava’d buddies are the UVF, not the LVF (as you typed 4 times!). The LVF are too extreme even for the UUP.

    2. “He is a seriously good man” … you’re joking, right? Have you even the slightest idea of what the UVF have done over the past 35 years? While DE was an active member or supporter? DE is, in fact, a seriously bad man.

  • smcgiff

    John EB,

    He has stated that there was no sane reason to murder Catholics.

    UDR a force of law and order? I’m not that gullible, geb!

    I’m certain he personally believes the UVF should destroy it’s weapons and go away – It’s very easy for us to say he should say it publicly – but what what that serve but isolate him from the people he’s trying to convince. The greater good (morals and conviction) comes to mind.

    But hey, if we close our eyes and wish long enough maybe the UVF will go away – that wouldn’t be at all gullible.

  • smcgiff


    Two small rebuttals

    1.At least I got your name correct.
    2.Have you any idea of what the IRA have been up to for the last 35 years. SF managed to turn them around. You never answered my question – re SF influence on the IRA.

  • smcgiff


    So it boils down to a party election slogan. I can get over that.

  • Stephen Copeland


    The flaw in your argument in favour of Ervine is that you are overlooking the sheer wrongness of what he, and his friends, did (and still do). Wrong not just in some moral sense, but also in terms of the cause that they were trying to promote.

    If DE really does want to take the gun out of the UVF’s hands, then the quick, lawful and moral route is to pick up the phone and shop them to the PSNI – every last one of them. Give the names, the dates, the hides, the alibis, the front companies, the lot. If he really believes in ‘British law’ then he cannot play a part in a criminal and murderous conspiracy against it. There is no equivocation possible. Either he supports ‘British’ values or he doesn’t.

    He should not be trying to ‘convince’ these people, he should be trying to get them locked up for life. If he is not trying to get them put away, then he is conspiring with them, and against the rule of law, and against that vague ‘moral’ right.

    While I share your scepticism about the UDR, that is from a non-unionist point of view. Ervine, as aa unionist, should have seen things in John EB’s sense, and should have supported ‘his’ forces of ‘law and order’. To do otherwise was illegal, imoral and counter to his support for ‘British values’.

    It is late, but not too late, for him to change. But yet he still has not changed! He has not shopped his evil buddies, nor even cut his ties with them.

  • Crataegus

    The people that David Irvine is associated with have committed unspeakable crimes and continue to act in a criminal manner. David speaks well but you know what they say about words being cheap.

    The type of UUP voter I know would not in any fashion want to be associated with a paramilitary organisation and would not wish to be seen to support or condone such activity. Feuds and old grievances are numerous in Loyalist paramilitary camps and murders, and attempted murders will continue. Many of them are simply criminals under a flag of convenience so drug dealing and racketeering will also continue unabated until the PSNI and Legal System incarcerate enough of them. But then there is the old problem of collusion. All the UUP have to do to highlight the disadvantages of association is look at the pickle the security forces are in with past collusion.

    No sane person would even frequent the same Pub as these people. You would not want to be seen with them any more than you would want to be caught with your pants down in a bordello.

    The association is a strategic disaster; I couldn’t believe my ears when I first heard it. What percentage of their vote does the UUP need to loose before they have electoral meltdown? They gain a few PUP votes but loose a substantial portion of middle Unionism. Worse than the imbalance of that equation is the loss of credibility. They have handed their opponents (hypocrites that they may be) a stick to thrash them with.

    El Matador

    Playing at brinkmanship is playing with fire.

    I totally agree.

    We have an agreement, flawed as it is, with a thumping democratic mandate. Within that context I go out and vote for an Assembly member to run this place. If the agreement requires amendment then they should proceed within the existing agreement, or contract, until revisions have been agreed to do otherwise is to derogate one’s responsibility and is in breach of an implied contract. If they are so precious that they cannot work with others who are duly elected then they know in advance of the position they are putting themselves in and must accept the consequences of their own actions. It is like joining a bowling club you join to play bowls not chess.

    Would any legal types know if there is an implied contract? If any of us can prove that we have suffered ascertainable loss due to the lack of political direction and stability is there a case that could be taken against the various political parties?

    If this was someone laying the drive I would have replaced them long ago. To my mind there is a clear breach of contract. But this is worse this is the Tarmac contractor from hell who shouts abuse at the neighbours, sets fire to the boundary hedge and parks his vans so no one can move.

    Just a thought.

  • Peking

    “Have you even the slightest idea of what the UVF have done over the past 35 years? While DE was an active member or supporter? DE is, in fact, a seriously bad man.”

    I’m not taken in a bit by David Ervine’s crap, he’s just an egotist who manages to talk a lot without actually saying anything of substance.
    As Raymond McCord remarked after the latest UVF shooting, “…sure Ervine says the same thing every time something like this happens ‘either it wasn’t the UVF or, if it was, it wasn’t sanctioned’.”
    So much too for him threatening to resign if the UVF were found to be involved in racist attacks – we’re still waiting. He was just copying Adams’s similar threat about the IRA and drugs.

    Which brings me to my point, if the above quoted is true of Ervine then it is every bit as much true of Adams, McGuinness, Kelly etc.

  • Crataegus

    Sorry Ervine above obviously. Should read what I type, was in full flow, bottled up frustration.

  • smcgiff


    ‘If he is not trying to get them put away, then he is conspiring with them, and against the rule of law, and against that vague ‘moral’ right.’

    I hold a differing view. I see value in what he is trying to achieve in the same way I say value in what SF did with the IRA.

    That one cause was unjust while another justified terrorist activities against civilians is another view I don’t hold with.

  • Stephen Copeland


    Your last sentence is a straw man argument. I have not tried to justify any activities – I am merely pointing out that DE is not a “good man” as you seem to think.

    If DE is trying to make NI a better place, then the sooner he gets rid of the UVF (and the others) the better. The fact that he is not doing everything possible to get them off peoples backs is a signal that he actually thinks that their existence, and their activities, are in some way justified. That runs counter to the rule of ‘his’ (i.e. British) law, common morality, and even political expedience. It thus shows him to be bad, illegal, stupid, and cynical. But ‘better than the rest’ …. sheesh!

  • smcgiff

    ‘The fact that he is not doing everything possible to get them off peoples backs is a signal that he actually thinks that their existence, and their activities, are in some way justified.’

    The flaw in your argument, Stephen, is that you’re gambling on Ervine’s information to damage/bring to justice members of the UVF is greater than the benefit of having someone like Ervine being on the inside trying to bring the UVF further along the road to ‘going away’ which is what everyone wants.

    Do you think we would be better off now if the leadership of SF 30 years ago cooperated with the police 100% and got as much of the then IRA put in prison as possible?

    Locking up all the UVF now would accomplish little, I’m sure there’d be plenty to take their place. Ervine as far as I believe is trying to accomplish far loftier goals – a NI that no longer contains the UVF, not just in the short term but FOR GOOD!

  • Stephen Copeland


    It doesn’t really matter how much evidence DE has on his current or former friends. The point is that in a civilised society he should be handing over any evidence he has of criminal activities to the police. Otherwise he is collaborating with them to avoid detection and punishment. No ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’. Either he believes that the rule of (British) law is worth defending, or he doesn’t.

    If he does, then he knows the phone number – hell, he might even have a personal handler for all I know. But if he does not think that the laws of the state to which he gives his allegience are worth supporting, then let’s be honest about that. And it seems that he doesn’t!

    He is, therefore, acting in a manner to subvert the laws of the very country that he claims to support! He is, thus, acting outside the law, and is a hypocrite. He is supporting, and failing to help prosecute, people who are guilty of crimes against the innocent. He is, thus, immoral. And his recent alliance with the UUP has managed to hugely damage that party. He is, thus, politically inept.

    You are wrong to see him as some kind of loyalist De Klerk – he is just a nasty little brutal bigot, albeit one with a veneer of education.

  • smcgiff

    It’s not that simple.

    Stephen’s reply ‘XX XX’

    Oh no it’s not!

  • Stephen Copeland


    You have consistently failed to address the substance of what I have repeated in several posts. I can only assume that you lack a coherent position.

    My fear is that you were ‘charmed’ by DE on the TV, and are willing to overlook his lifetime of evil.

  • Dec


    I fail to see how your comparison with the SF leadership’s relationship with the IRA of 30 years ago with Ervines relationship with the UVF is relevant. The fact is that in 10 years (since the ‘ceasefires’) of Ervine attempting to steer the UVF away violence he has not managed to get them to decommission one single weapon. In that timeframe they have engaged in several killing sprees and have attempted to murder a man as recently as Tuesday. Clearly he’s not very good at his job.

  • Aidan

    It doesn’t really matter how much evidence DE has on his current or former friends. The point is that in a civilised society he should be handing over any evidence he has of criminal activities to the police. Otherwise he is collaborating with them to avoid detection and punishment. No ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’. Either he believes that the rule of (British) law is worth defending, or he doesn’t.

    If only things were so black and white..

    It would might put a few murdering scumbags behind bars, but I don’t think that it would advance the political situation.

  • Stephen Copeland


    The simple point is that DE’s preferred regime was in power for the whole of his political and paramilitary life. There was no reason whatsoever, either political or social, why he should have taken up arms, let alone taken up arms to (deliberately) target innocent people.

    He had, and has, no possible justification for what he did in the past, or for his current paramilitary connections. None.

    If he wants NI to be a better place, then he knows a very simple way to make a difference. Dump the thugs. Better still, shop them. Support the rule of civilisation. He has not done that, which shows that he still supports their philosophy (bigotry and division) and their methods (murder). If he simply wants to promote the position of NI in the UK, then there are perfectly normal political channels to do that through. He could (should) have left the PUP and joined the UUP as a non-violent democrat. He could still, in that role, argue for loyalist decommissioning – as do other politicians. By staying with the PUP he is implicitly supporting their activities, including the recent shooting of Haddock. His position is a disgrace, and it is sad to see intelligent people like smcgiff falling over themselves to admire him.

  • crataegus


    “Locking up all the UVF now would accomplish little, I’m sure there’d be plenty to take their place.”

    That’s like saying why bother locking up any criminal sure they will just be replaced in a couple of weeks.

    I think the benefits of locking up the UVF (UDA etc) should not be underestimated. I sends out very clear signals about the rule of law also gives their victims some merciful relief etc.

  • IJP

    What’s all this about ‘bringing Loyalists inside the tent’?

    Does this great ‘party of law and order’ not recognize a shower of common gangsters when they see them?

    These aren’t ‘defenders’ of anyone, they are people intent on savaging communities for personal gain.


    Please try to be accurate. Eileen Bell was appointed Speaker by the Secretary of State, not by the Alliance Party.

    Can you indicate where precisely Alliance has acted outside the terms of the Agreement?

    The party advocates reform of the Agreement, but the Agreement provides the terms for its own review. It’s a pity no one else will join us in reviewing it, and being honest about what hasn’t worked.

  • north

    Three families have been ordered out of Mount Vernon because of their association with Haddock

  • True, cops have confirmed it.

  • páid

    on the point of whether and when the GFA should be given a decent burial, …………

    if John Hume comes out of retirement I’m sure he would say, many times over, that the Good Friday Agreement will be replaced by a new agreement which will ‘transcend in importance’ the GFA.

    And he may well be right.

  • McGrath

    “trying to convert them into community workers”

    i.e. trying to convert gangsters into community workers? Doesn’t anyone else think this is insane?

    If the UUPs association with the PUP, and the PUPs association with UVF is for the purpose of converting gangsters into community workers then they need to realize that animals cant live inside tents. (same goes for the other side)

    I think all they really want to accomplish is to get us to talk about them.

  • Is there another reason why it may have been foolish for the UUP to bring Ervine on board?

    Namely it hands a lot of power over the future of the UUP to the UVF’s Special Branch handlers.

    After all, it’s only last year that Michael Copeland was claiming the police raid on his office was a dirty trick designed to influence the general election in South Belfast.

  • smack

    David Irvine represents the political wing of a drugs cartel.

    Perhaps he would be better standing for election in Afghanistan, with his military wing’s experience in the drugs trade, he might feel just as at home in the poppy fields in the mountains east of Kabul.

  • david
  • get out now

    “A senior Ulster Unionist source said his party’s objective is to try to bring paramilitarism to an end, to get the arms issue dealt with and to stop young people joining loyalist organisations.”

    Why on earth do they refuse to use the exit route which is so glaringly obvious. Lets remember, Empey’s initial sole reason for alligning with the PUP at Stormont was about removing a seat from SF. Publicly it was nothing to do with bringing paramilitaries in from the cold – well not until the credibility of the SF reasoning was questioned.

    They can say that they believe there will be no Executive formed in the near future – probably blame the DUP for it, and then say the alliance with the PUP is now no longer necessary.

    However, they managed to hang themselves on a hook – instead of being simply about political expediency they decided that they were going on a moral crusade to ‘democratise’ paramilitary gangsters and drug dealers and in the process left themselves as a complete hostage to fortune reliant upon good behaviour which was never going to come from those same people.

    Clearly the UUP dont have anyone who can spell the word strategy let alone put one in place.