PUP to debate cutting paramilitary ties this evening (Update – and didn’t)

PUP interim leader, Dr John KyleIn today’s Belfast Telegraph, Brian Rowen previews tonight’s meeting of the PUP.

Dawn Purvis resigned as leader and member of the PUP in the immediate aftermath of Shankill loyalist Bobby Moffett’s murder in May – “a public execution sanctioned by [UVF] paramilitary leaders”.

Dr John Kyle stepped in as interim leader, a bit like a pilot with the aim of stabilising the damaged PUP aeroplane and bringing it down to land in a controlled way at the Harbour Airport, ensuring that the passengers (communities and stakeholders that the party represent) were not abandoned, and minimising the damage should the party fragment in mid-air over East Belfast.

(That analogy stretched a bit too far …)

However John Kyle is proposing a fundamental change of course tonight. Rowen reports:

Belfast councillor Dr John Kyle will tonight tell a Progressive Unionist Party meeting that its links with the UVF and Red Hand Commando are “unnecessary, inappropriate and politically damaging” …

“I’m going to argue for severing the link,” Dr Kyle told this newspaper.

“I will make the case that the continuing link with paramilitary organisations is unnecessary, inappropriate and politically damaging.

“The relationship in the past produced significant benefits to the peace process, but we are now living in a new era.”

Brian Ervine at October 2009 PUP conferenceBrian Ervine (brother of David Ervine) is likely to put his name forward for selection as PUP leader at their closed party conference in mid-October when John Kyle stands down. Last October, Brian unsuccessfully challenged the PUP’s distinctive pro-choice policy with a motion proposing that “the present policy to agitate for the introduction of the 1967 Abortion Act into Northern Ireland is spiritually, morally and politically harmful to the PUP”.

Update – They didn’t cut links – a significant majority of the fifty or so party members attending voted to keep the links in place. After the meeting, standing alongside Brian Ervine, chairman Brian Lacey and councillor Ken Wilkinson “in a show of unity”, interim leader John Kyle outlined the PUP’s position and read an agreed statement to media:

After much debate and open conversation the membership decided to maintain the link with the UVF and Red Hand Commando. The PUP was founded upon the core principles of social justice and conflict transformation.

It has been a vehicle for loyalists to actively partake in the political process, we remain committed to giving a voice to working class loyalists throughout Northern Ireland.

We are focused on helping society move beyond violence and sectarianism, to quote David Ervine to creating a path out of the jungle.

Speaking to the Newsletter, John Kyle (who is not standing in the leadership election at the party’s conference in October) explained that his continued presence in the party is not guaranteed:

I have not given any indication about my membership [of the party] which remains under consideration.

The Newsletter published a correction on Saturday 2 October stating that Ken Wilkinson was not a councillor after all.

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  • Nordie Northsider

    Is there any compelling reason why we should care about this? It’s like reading a report on power struggles within the Workers’ Party.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The link to Brian Rowens report does not open for me but I see a connexion to the report in todays Irish News that an alleged Brigadier in the UVF is about to turn supergrass.
    This might concentrate the minds of representatives tonight.

  • William Markfelt

    Relax. They’re taking their cue from Brendan Behan.

    The first item on he agenda of any PUP meeting is the split.

  • Neil
  • joeCanuck

    If true, what does he get in return? Some horrible crimes forgiven?

  • Reader

    fitzjameshorse1745: the report in todays Irish News that an alleged Brigadier in the UVF is about to turn supergrass.
    This might concentrate the minds of representatives tonight.

    Careful now – Pippakin will be along any minute now to demand amnesties all round.

  • > Is there any compelling reason why we should care about this?

    Well, firstly it’s politics, and you’re reading and commenting on a political blog!

    And it’s a corner of unionism that has survived longer than most people would have imagined, working in marginal grey areas, representing some voters who feel like other parties ignore then, trying to keep lines of communication open with organisations that might or might not be changing from their old ways, and offers a rather distinctive socialist version of unionism unseen in the DUP, TUV or UUP.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    joe canuck
    I think “horrible crimes forgiven” depends on the crime, the person committing it and who is doing the forgiving.
    Theres the Alan McBride “forgiveness” or the Willie Fraser type. Mrs Joyce McCartan or Mrs O’Hara (whos son committed suicide on hunger strike).
    Not having had that much to forgive on a personal level (some but not much in the great scheme of things), I wont pass judgement on which is “right”.

    I dont think its likely that the alleged informer will be forgiven much in terms of a reduced sentence or whatever so we can only speculate as to his motives for turning supergrass……conscience….or finding God….or perhaps merely aggravation that he is banged up in jail while former allies are enjoying the sweet life..perhaps revenge……who knows?
    But I think if enough PUP/UVF types signal their intention to be good boys and girls…..it might mean that the PSNI will not be knocking on their doors in the near future.

  • joeCanuck

    fjh,

    If the reason is because of a guilty conscience, then I can only applaud the man. We need many such pangs.

  • Alias

    “we can only speculate as to his motives for turning supergrass”

    Here’s some speculation: the state using one of its touts to deal with the ‘bad UVF’ by holding them to account for their crimes with the state or its tout making no mention of crimes comitted by the good UVF or the state’s other touts.

  • anne warren

    Judas Iscariot is the world’s most famous supergrass or informer and like all informers he is universally despised – even by those who made use of his service. The informer is generally a person of disreputable and untrustworthy character. He will have been a participant in the crimes of which his former associates are accused. He may have been a perjurer in previous courts. He may be motivated by the fact that he has been given immunity from prosecution, promised financial reward or offered some other benefit, become disillusioned with the cause he once served or is subjected to blackmail. The supergrass will therefore be willing to give police the sort of evidence they expect him to give. Previous loyalist paramilitary informers include William Allen (UVF), James Crockard (UVF), Stanley Millar Smith (UDA),John Gibson (UVF), Joseph Bennett (UVF)

  • joeCanuck

    So, Anne,

    You would totally dismiss the possibility of conscience? No reformation for the “sinner”?

  • Mark McGregor

    Lets not get carried away with the ‘socialist’ tag.

  • anne warren

    Some paramilitaries – not supergrasses – have “reformed” and developed a conscience while in prison. I attribute that to “rehabilitation success” ie turning a criminal into a law-abiding member of society. This is what imprisonment is supposed to achieve, though it is rarely successful as there are many hardened criminals.

    Supergrasses are hardly likely to be “reformed” by their sentence because, as I said, they often demand immunity from prosecution. Fear of returning to prison is another motivation for turning informer that I forgot to list.

    Do you really think this particular supergrass is a “converted terrorist”?

  • pippakin

    Reader

    Depends on the crime. Amnesty is not a blank cheque. If someone is charged with extortion, blackmail, drugs, child abuse, rape etc, then clearly they should not be covered by amnesty.

  • Granni Trixie

    As far as we can tell Dr Kyle and some others in PUP seem to be “straight” (in a manner of speaking) so what kind of mental gymnastics does it take to coexist in the party with the “baddies”. For me this is the more interesting conscience question. I must say Gary Mitchel’s portrayal of a loyalists in a culture influenced by an overlap of corruption and politics rings true.

  • Mr E Mann

    The contrast to the Robert McCartney case certainly shows PUP in a better light than Sinn Fein.

    That said, in the end SF’s politicians were able to get the PIRA to disarm and disband. PUP can apparently only “cut ties” with the UVF, whatever that may mean. Can someone knowledgeable about Loyalism offer any opinions about this? Is the relationship between politicians and paramilitaries fundamentally different for PUP/UVF than it was for SF/PIRA, or is the PUP just engaged in an ass-covering maneuver here?

  • Mark

    Don’t forget we have the celebrity supergrasses here who pop up in the sunday rags and the odd radio show.

  • joeCanuck

    Breaking News.

    BBC report that the link between the Party and the loyalist gangs will be maintained.

  • Reader

    pippakin: Depends on the crime. Amnesty is not a blank cheque.
    That’s quite a list of crimes. You left out murder. Or is murder the crime that *should* get an amnesty in your view?

  • pippakin

    Reader

    If a man murders his wife, in laws etc then no it should not be covered, but Im afraid if he murdered a member of the armed forces etc. like the case yesterday, then yes I believe that should be covered by amnesty.

  • joeCanuck

    I don’t believe that there should be a blanket amnesty but rather a qualified one. It should only be given on request, with no admission of guilt necessary and a “licence” given like the ones given to the prisoners released early. In other words, if they commit any serious crime (to be defined) in a certain period (to be agreed), then they may be prosecuted for the “amnestied” offence, usual rules of evidence etc to apply.

  • A.N.Other

    It should well be remembered that without Judas there would not have been a crucifiction..

  • pippakin

    joe

    I agree except I do not believe amnesty should only be given if responsibility is accepted.

    How can anyone insist they are not guilty of a crime but want and accept amnesty for it?

  • pippakin

    joe

    Sorry I really miss preview.

    It should read “amnesty should only be granted after responsibility for paramilitary action is accepted by the person/s concerned.

  • joeCanuck

    Pippakin,

    I did say no admission of guilt necessary. A bit perhaps like someone asking for other cases to be taken into consideration. It would mean that people would be able to put the past behind and not having to look over their shoulders all the time wondering whether the HET are coming to arrest them.

  • joeCanuck

    Oops, Pippakin,

    We are at cross purposes. Something needs to be worked out. It would require legislation so it’s up to the Parties, some of whose members will be party to the offences.

  • pippakin

    joe

    And I said:

    How can anyone insist they are not guilty of a crime but want and accept amnesty for it?

    But I do agree once granted people should be able to live their lives subject to the same laws and prohibitions as everyone else.

  • anne warren

    Would we all have been better off?

  • joeCanuck

    And there are some who claim that Jesus and Judas were the closest friends all through and that the denunciation was a set up by Jesus.

  • pippakin

    joe

    Yep! It sure is, wonder which way they will jump…

  • anne warren

    How unorthodox you are Joe!
    You didn’t find that idea in the King James or Douai versions!

  • Reader

    pippakin: If a man murders his wife, in laws etc then no it should not be covered, but Im afraid if he murdered a member of the armed forces etc. like the case yesterday, then yes I believe that should be covered by amnesty.
    OK – let’s see your hierarchy of victims (and killers). Who should get an amnesty from the following list? (1) Bloody Friday bombers? (2) Enniskillen bombers? (3) Kingsmills gunmen? (4) Greysteel gunmen? (5) Teebane bombers? (6) Paras on Bloody Sunday? (7) McGurk’s bar bombers?

  • cynic47

    Pippakin

    Wise up! Murder is murder is murder. Maybe you could tell me what the loss of over 3000 lives in Northern Ireland achieved for anyone during the thirty odd years of the “troubles” except a lot of broken hearts.

    I wonder do the people who carried out the murders sleep well?

  • pippakin

    Reader

    I know! but what would you do? Have a succession of trials, some of the accused might be innocent, some might get off and all the while there would be the endless gory and very painful publicity. People would be continuously hurt.

    Surely if a paramilitary crime is acknowledged and responsibility accepted then an amnesty is best.

  • pippakin

    Cynic 47

    Yes more than three thousand people have been killed, murdered and many have been maimed. What has their deaths achieved? nothing, nothing that could not have been achieved democratically.

    How well do the murderers sleep? from all I hear some of them not well at all.

    Surely the best thing is to try and make peace normal.

  • cynic47

    Is it “normal” to let murderers walk? Who took the peace from us in the first place?

  • pippakin

    Cynic 47

    I know, but that is an argument that works both ways and the people who have been murdered and maimed come from both sides.

    I believe it is better to give an amnesty to both sides, than to keep reliving the past.

  • lamhdearg

    pip look on the bright side if H.M.G. go after the U.V.F. leaders they will also go after the P.I.R.A leaders and your mate G to the e to the rry will get it to.

  • pippakin

    lamdearg

    They are not going to go after them! they know where they are, they know what they do. If they wanted them including the illustrious one, they would have got them by now.

    This thread was about the PUP and it has been completely hijacked by the amnesty ‘debate’. I’m stopping now. Sorry.

  • lamhdearg

    All things come to those that wait.

  • joeCanuck

    And the meek will inherit the earth (if no one minds awfully).

  • lamhdearg

    the meek shall inherit nothing, Frank zappa

  • Dawn’s articulation of the PUP vision certainly spoke more about having a social conscience that any other the other unionist parties and Alliance.

  • cynic47

    This is not a green or an orange issue. Its easy to talk about an amnesty from the sidelines. I wonder how those who lost their loved one’s feel about the murderers getting legal forgiveness?

  • Mr E Mann

    Shame on the PUP for yesterday’s decision, which was bad ethics and bad politics. As someone pointed out above, PUP represents a distinctive position, left-wing unionism, that deserves a platform. But the current constituency for that position is too small to support both a strictly-democratic party and also one tied to a paramilitary/crime syndicate. They should either a) follow SF in getting their military unit to disband, b) failing that, renounce the UVF, or c) disband and try to form a left wing of some other unionist party.

  • anne warren

    They’ve failed with attempts at a) and b). So their only options seem to be c) or d) oblivion.

  • Joe Bryce

    Is there a better time than now for us to start to talk to our nationalist and republican brethren about what they actually mean by Irish unity?

    London & Dublin are flattened by the economic crisis: Big Brother on both sides has other business on its hands. The Church has never been so discredited.

    After a worrying flurry, the “dissidents” have become as irrelevant as the “Real UVF” (or whatever) morons who put a pipe bomb in a primary school: setting a new standard for political self-destruction.

    So: what dioes Irish unity mean? What would be the separation of church and state? Would Ireland rejoin the Commonwealth? What scope for northern autonomy?

    Soon there will be an SF FM, and these are the questions he will need to have answers for.