I had a feeling something like this might happen. Dawn Purvis has resigned from the PUP in the wake of the UVF killing of last week. The historic link with the UVF had always been a limiting factor for the party, and its attempt to garner support for Councillor Dr John Kyle foundered on that particular rock. Barney Rowan reports in today’s Belfast Telegraph:
Ms Purvis has resigned both her membership and leadership of the PUP, and will continue in politics as an independent MLA. Her resignation will be viewed as a very public demonstration of disgust at last Friday’s shooting.
I’ve no doubt her team (who were earnest, hard working and devoted to her) are in shock over this development. But if you want a thumbnail gauge for just where the party’s insistence on keeping its paramilitary links (and keeping some kind of honest relationship with both its voters and the wider public) has landed it in the political world, here’s an earlier press release from yesterday:
“The PUP strongly supports the rights of all individuals who would like to express their grief over the killing of Bobby Moffett and support for the Moffett family to freely attend all funeral and memorial services without fear.
“The PUP unreservedly condemns the murder of Bobby Moffett and shares the outrage of Shankill residents over the manner in which this attack took place. People who would like to register a protest over the killing should be able to do so peacefully and lawfully.”
In a genuinely free society, none of these things should have to be said by a public representative to their own supporters and activists. Unsurprisingly in the end perhaps, Ms Purvis has taken the only route offered her by a party too determined to hold on to the old ways of the past.
And we’ve had yet another glimpse at the kinds of rent seeking and negative social equity that all paramilitaries (to a greater or lesser extent) impose upon their own communities.
Update (08.36): Here’s Ms Purvis’s statement, having submitted her resignation in an emergency meeting of the PUP’s Executive Committee on Wednesday night, which was accepted.
“I make this decision with a very heavy heart. I believe the Progressive Unionist Party was founded by individuals who had a real vision for Northern Ireland and a positive and important contribution to make to politics and the peace process in this country. I have been honoured to be a part of that.”
“However, I can no longer offer leadership to a political party which is expected to answer for the indefensible actions of others. I will continue in my role of MLA as an independent member of the Assembly, representing the people of East Belfast.”
“It will be my objective, as it has always been, to bring to the Assembly specific policy ideas and proposals which will make Northern Ireland a place where there is equality of opportunity for all, and where the people of Northern Ireland can be proud to live, work, learn and play.”
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty