From paramilitaries to evangelists

This seems not to have received much media coverage but Billy Mitchell the convicted UVF terrorist turned Christian and PUP member died recently. Billy Mitchell was a strong advocate of the Good Friday Agreement and worked with former Republican prisoners building cross-community housing upon his release from jail. He also contributed several articles to “The Blanket” including, Culture and Identity and A Question of Identity. “The Other View” a joint Republican and Loyalist ex-prisoners initiative – also carried an article by him entitled – Racists are no Friends of the Union.

Another ex-paramilitary prisoner turned Christian is the Rev. Thomas Martin who is now a minister at the Free Presbyterian Church in Lisburn. I recently heard him giving his testimony in a Faith mission held in the local Orange Hall about how he was saved and turned his back on paramilitarism. I thought perhaps it would be online but there is also a book about his life written by Noel Davidson – Out of the Maze.

  • Nathan

    This is a very interesting topic indeed Aughavey, and its a shame that no-one bothered to give it the attention it deserved.

    To bring a bit of political balance to this thread, Shane O’Doherty (the former Derry Brigade IRA bomber) is also deserving of a mention. Like many within physical force Republican circles today, he has renounced violence, and has now become a Humanist (albeit religious). He’s at Maynooth currently, training to become a priest. His book “The Volunteer” is an absolute gem.

    Considering the over-saturation of party-parrot, wheelie-bin foot soldiers within Sinn Fein at the minute, it is very irrational that former terrorists get the cold shoulder. We should wake up and realise that the terrorists, in spite of their past misdeeds, often have more to offer to debate than minor party members. We give the latter too much self-importance, considering that all they offer us nothing other than the usual regurgitations from a Sinn Fein press release.

  • bertie

    If he joined the PUP he didn’t turn his back on terrorism, unfortunatly!

  • Another to add to your list is James Tate, a guy I used to work with.

  • Diane

    Thank you Aughavey for bringing Billy Mitchell to the attention of the site. He was an amazing man truly inspirational and had most certainly turned his back on terrorism.
    All his work through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and LINC (Local Initiatives for Needy Communities) was aimed at transforming loyalist communities and seeking to bring an end to paramilitarism. I knew him personally, Bertie and I would challenge you to seek to find out more about the man and what he stood for. His writing was prolific and yet he never sought to put himself forward. I have rarely met a more genuine, honest selfless man who put himself on the line to seek to bring reconciliation and peace to this part of our island.
    His funeral was a testiment to his life and brought the most eclectic group of people together from across not only the political and religious divide, but also the social – sometimes the most difficult to cross. I’ve never contributed to this site before, but I felt strongly enough to say this.

  • DV I assume knew him.