Dawn Purvis emerged from a school of political thinking in Loyalism fostered by Gusty Spence and promoted by the late PUP leader David Ervine. Miss Purvis, just like her mentors is a rare commodity in Unionism in the sense that she doesn’t patronise working class protestants. And she has a sharp instinct for what is correct for her community.
She has been exceptional in holding out against the status quo thinking on education in the broad Unionist leadership. She recognises, unlike most Unionist politicians, the fact that there is no pathway out in the least privileged areas of Protestantism where only a handful of eleven year olds make it into grammar schools.
She is a strong feminist with liberal instincts. This again marks her out from a male dominated Unionist hegemony. She didn’t hang about when she felt strongly about something.
On Tuesday she went straight to the most senior UVF leader and put her cards on the table over the killing of Bobby Moffett on the Shankill Road. This killing did not sit easily on her shoulders and she delivered her message in no uncertain way in relinquishing herself of the PUP leadership.
She is generally well regarded and liked by all sides in politics in the Assembly. As a mature student Miss Purvis distinguished herself academically on graduation. She is staying on in the Assembly as an independent.
She took over as leader of the PUP three and a half years ago when David Ervine died after a short illness.