Hearing the Other Voice from the Grave: Why Should we Listen to David Ervine’s Stories?

imageEd Moloney’s Voices from the Grave: Two Men’s War in Ireland has received considerable attention in the press and in the public realm since its publication earlier this year. Although the book relates the experiences of the Provisional IRA’s Brendan Hughes and the PUP/UVF’s David Ervine, much of the discussion has focused on Hughes’ stories about Gerry Adams.

This book review will not delve into the Adams-related stories in detail, as I think they have by now entered our common consciousness and there is little new to say about them. It will suffice to recall that Brendan Hughes identifies Adams as the key figure in the Belfast IRA, the man ultimately responsible for Bloody Friday and ‘disappearing’ Jean McConville. Hughes also died believing that Adams double-crossed his comrades in the IRA, taking the republican movement in a political direction that – unbeknownst to his foot soldiers who were putting their lives on the line – betrayed them to a peace process that left them too far short of their political goals.

For those few readers unfamiliar with it, the basis of the book, also detailed in an RTE documentary, was a series of interviews with key paramilitaries by Boston College researchers between 2001-2004. The interviews were conducted on the condition that no materials could be used until after the deaths of the participants. The early deaths of Hughes and Ervine meant that their voices have entered the public realm much sooner than was expected.

Moloney skilfully interweaves their personal stories with the key events of the Troubles, using a deft, unobtrusive style that truly allows both men to speak for themselves. But what is striking about the book is its imbalance: 285 pages devoted to Hughes, just 179 to Ervine.

This may well be because what Hughes had more to say was more intriguing – that seems clear from the debate (and finger-pointing) that the Adams revelations have provoked. But that has meant that much of what Ervine had to say has been overlooked or ignored.

That’s unfortunate. Especially right now, when there is a lack of communication between so-called ‘loyalism,’ and the middle unionism of the main unionist political parties and the unionist chattering classes.

Of course, Ervine achieved a respectable status within unionism with his turning away from violence. But this book makes clear that he very much retained what you might call a loyalist interpretation of the peace process, one that put the strategizing and the actions of not just the PUP, but also the UVF and the UDA, at the centre of it all.

This loyalist interpretation of the peace process is currently either unacknowledged or wilfully ignored by mainstream unionism.

And what is that perspective? It is encapsulated in a quote from one of the interviews, where Ervine describes the UVF’s 1979 document ‘Sharing Responsibility.’ This document ‘advocated a devolved power-sharing government in Belfast made up of Unionists and Nationalists, the latter assumed to be of the SDLP variety’ (p. 396). This is what Ervine said,

In the period of time before I joined the PUP the party presented Sharing Responsibility to the Secretary of State at the time, Jim Prior, and he told them that he was very interested in it but they were twenty years ahead of their time, and I think they were, absolutely. Every Unionist political party nowadays effectively advocates exactly the line that the Progressive Unionist Party, the UVF, if you like, was advocating in the mid-1970s, and I find it absolutely fascinating that those who had the time and space to evaluate and offer leadership chose not to do so, [while] those who very often are spurned … because of the paramilitary origins of their leadership, but maybe more because they were working class, were beavering away through a thought process by themselves but also in conjunction with prisoners in the jail. I think it was of some significance, in fairness, that the UDA, through the Ulster Political Research Group, had created their Common Sense document, supposedly the brainchild of John McMichael. I don’t know whether it was fully his brainchild but it certainly indicates a process of thinking in the paramilitary ranks of Loyalism far beyond that of the serried ranks of besuited politicians on the Unionist side. There’s no doubt in my mind about that, absolutely no doubt that had we waited for rational politics from Unionist constitutional politicians we’d have waited forever. (p. 396-397).

Ervine also related how the ideas and language of loyalism were reflected in the text of the pivotal 1993 Downing Street Declaration. Having recently given a lecture to students on our Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation programme about how the ideas and language of John Hume and the SDLP were reflected in the Downing Street Declaration and the Belfast Agreement, I was very much struck by how Ervine fore-grounded the role of loyalism (p. 430). I have to admit that this perspective hadn’t made it in to my lecture on unionism and loyalism. This is how Ervine described it,

So the Irish government became vital and Chris Hudson [a prominent participant in the Peace Train movement] was actually headhunted by the leadership of the UVF for a specific role in mediating with the Irish government and was tested in late 1993 in terms of insertion of material provided by Loyalism for the Downing Street Declaration. The six key principles that were included verbatim in the Downing Street Declaration was our indicator very clearly that we were being heard, that not only was the conduit in place but it was open and working. (p. 430-431)

A similar perspective to Ervine’s was very much apparent at a one-day conference Ulster Loyalism: Past, Present and Future, at Queen’s on 19 November. The conference featured both academics and former loyalist paramilitaries as speakers. The comments of some of the former paramilitaries followed pretty much the same line as Ervine. There was a significant former UDA representation at the conference and they talked extensively about Common Sense (a pro-power sharing document from 1987) and an earlier document, Beyond the Religious Divide.

There was a sense that these documents, like Sharing Responsibility, had been forgotten or were being written out of the history of the peace process – with big house unionism sweeping in to take all of the credit and all of the votes.

Indeed, the general lack of wider knowledge about these documents is reflected in a structural feature of Voices from the Grave: Although Sharing Responsibility and Common Sense are discussed in the text, they don’t merit a mention in the Index. After all, who would think of looking them up?

The key point that I take from this is that many loyalists would appreciate some sort of acknowledgement for the risks they took, and the contributions they made, during the peace process.

This doesn’t mean that so-called mainstream unionism – or others in Northern Ireland, for that matter – have to whole-heartedly accept loyalists’ interpretations. But just listening to this perspective – it is now easily accessible in Voices from the Grave – would be a good start.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Oh ayee……..much kudos to the scumbag uvf for stopping their sectarian campaign ??

    Big House Unionism wanted to set up a power sharing Government at Stormont in 1922……………unfortunately,watery eyed priests,and Nationalist Politicians refused to recognise the State !!!

    No love………………no credit to scumbag terrorists of whatever colour !!! Contrary to popular belief,they had absolutely no justification for their murderous campaigns !!!!!

  • Turgon

    One of the problems with the above narrative is that it is all self serving from Ervine.

    Let us not forget that Ervine was a convicted criminal who also was in cahoots with a group of unrepentant sectarian murdereres who adopted a “yabba dabba doo any taig will do” strategy.

    Ervine made many claims such as about the colour of wall paper in unionists politicians houses. Now if that is true Ervine was there as a UVF leader. Hence, his claim to have no longer been a terrorist is a lie. The simple fact is that Ervine was a self serving liar and his death has helped prevent many of his lies being exposed.

    The claim that the PUP was the first unionist paty to advocate power sharing is of course a blatant lie. Brian Faulkner had tried that some years before. One can debate why Faulkner failed and whether he should have done (council of Ireland etc.) but it is a simple falsehood for Ervine to claim that mainstream unionism did not have advocates of power sharing.

    The idea that the PUP is separate from the UVF is also flawed by the fact that the PUP claim them to be separate at times and at other times (such as when the UVF announced their ceasefire) they calim to be closely even intimately linked. We have seen exactly the same narrative played out over the recent riots in Rathcoole.

    The real reason for the ignoring of the PUP is the derisory level of support they recieve. They claim that working class unionists have been poorly represented and indeed hoodwinked by mainstream unionism and that they (the PUP) are the true representatives of working class unionists. However, by their actions in support of the loyalist terrorists they are actually amongst the worst oppressors of working class unionists. This along with the frankly insulting suggestion that by not voting PUP working class unionists are effectively stupid, minimises their appeal to those working class unionists. Supporting the oppressors of your constituents and then insulting their political intelligence is not an effective mechanism of gaining votes.

    The loyalist politicians have always attracted a certain popularity amongst the liberal intelligensia as they are unaffected by the loathsome nature of the PUP’s other halves. In addition this plays into the falacious narrative that working class unionists somehow have radically different political positions to the rest of unionism.

    There is a real problem of underrepresentation of working class unionist areas and low voting rates. That has been made worse by the gentrification of the UUP and more recently DUP (remember Harold McCusker was a pretty working class UUP representative: Fred Cobain still is and the DUP still have a number) but there are too few. The solution is for the mainstream unionist parties to engage with and help all their constituents.

    The PUP and all tainted with them will continue to be regarded as parriahs by mosy unionists of all social classes. Ervine was a liar and criminal who knew a great deal about a vicious sectarian murder campaign and did little enough to bring it to an end unless that end helped him and his fellow travellers.

    The fact that Ervine’s revelations are less interesting than Hughes’s is because he has told us less. Had he been confessing to further crimes of his own, or pointing to teh crimes of others, it might have been of some relevance. Instead he took even more lies to the grave with him than Hughes did.

  • Gladys, Big House Unionism has been in decline for about a century and AFAIK played little or no part in the peace process.

    I don’t feel too comfortable with the term ‘former paramilitaries’; perhaps semi-detached would be more apt. Some of those who find favour with the political establishments in London and Dublin and who may enjoy a high degree of immunity from prosecution may still have their fingers in aspects of organised crime and ‘civic justice’.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    “This loyalist interpretation of the peace process is currently either unacknowledged or wilfully ignored by mainstream unionism”: balls. Unionists successfully confuted their ‘interpretation’ and refuted their actions. Those actions being, as Turgon, like the vast majority of Unionists, said, sectarian murders. One of the comforts of the Troubles was that for the the bulk of its duration, a majority of nationalists likewise rejected the ‘analysis’ and sectarian murders of Republicans. Good for most of us. Most of us weren’t guilty, and those who were, still are.

  • JAH

    As usual the Republican faction will dismiss anything from the Loyalist paramilitaries as worthless as it directly challenges most of their claims of somehow representing working class ideals (and convieniently ignoring the blood on their hands). And the Unionists who hid behind working class paramilitaries for muscle when things were bad of course turn on them now with almost the same relish as the Republicans.

    However well done to Gladys for putting a spotlight on the almost totally forgotten history of working class Protestant thinking and action. The most successful political strike in the Western world since WW2 was run by Loyalist paramilitaries yet is there one book on it? Has no one bothered to ask Glen Barr what he did then or next. The history of the Troubles isn’t written yet because one of its most explosive elements is constantly ignored, its members demonised, despised and ignored.

    Idealism hasn’t completely died out either. Turgon despises Ervine and his ilk because they still challenge the far right’s attempt to represent themselves as defenders of loyalism. It doesn’t take anyone long to realise just how bad things could be after reading David Vance, the TUV economic spokesman, daily out pouring of hate towards the poor.

    Maybe someone will start charting this untold story.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    It is intriguing that some former terrorist godfathers are extremely unpopular (Gerry Adams) while others (David Ervine) are hailed as latter day saints of the Peace Process.

    If as Brendan Hughes believed (and some Sluggerites find him “impressive”) that Adams men were led away from the armed struggle……almost unwittingly…..then that actually says a lot for the leadership skills of Adams.
    If Ervine was allegedly more plain spoken…..then the peculiar thing is that for all the verbose spechifying and “bon mots” he never actually led militant loyalism away from the gun……..as the UVF for which he spoke have killed so many since 1998.

    So how come the Media love Ervine more than Adams.
    Perhaps “trying” to bring violence to an end is actually more credit worthy than actually ending it. Perhaps the Peace Process was intended by the Media to be a glorious failure rather than a moderate success.
    In those circumstances Ervine is more “heroic”.

  • “The key point that I take from this is that many loyalists would appreciate some sort of acknowledgement for the risks they took, and the contributions they made, during the peace process.”

    When you say “loyalists” there Gladys, the group of people you are listening to and describing are the terrorists and their apologists who preyed on the grievances and insecurities of the pro-Union working class to carry out many of the most disgusting crimes of the Troubles.

    A serious study is required of the level of deprivation and still-existing grievance felt in many of those working-class areas. But the people you are asking us to “appreciate”, remain, over a decade into the “peace process”, an essential component of the problem, not it’s solution.

  • Scath Sheamais

    Regarding the “imbalance” of Voices from the Grave, the subtitle of the book is “Two men’s war in Ireland” – Hughes spoke at length about his role in the IRA, Ervine by comparison said very little about what he got up to in the UVF, which was especially disappointing when you consider comments he made such as on the links between unionist politicans and paramilitaries, that “I sat there with them – I could tell you the colour of their wallpaper”.

  • pippakin

    I think part of the reason for the imbalance in the book is that PIRA managed to maintain the façade of being predominantly politically motivated, particularly amongst many of their ‘foot soldiers’ so there was a sense of internal betrayal to deal with as well as the mainstream republican stance. The loyalists on the other hand have been ‘demoted’ to predominantly criminally motivated and there does not seem to be a voice denying, confirming or declaring a similar sense of betrayal. I doubt either description is fully accurate.

    In addition to the above the republican movement was largely represented by Sinn Fein keeping the republican voice concentrated, while the loyalist movements voice was splintered among the various unionist parties, the PUP being one of the smallest. The death of David Ervine could be said to have curtailed the growth of the PUP denying the working class unionist movement the opportunity to develop.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Working class terrorist bad boys…….always get a certain prominence if they articulate.
    And Ervine fits that pattern and as Irish history is littered with “heroic failure” it is ironic that David Ervine fits the narrative of heroic failure more than say Gerry Adams who actually managed to get his people away from an armed struggle and into the Stormont Government and actually made Sinn Féin the largest nationalist and republican party..
    Now that strikes me as more successful than Ervine.

    Now of course those who intensely dislike……even hate Adams …..would say that he has not been successful. The Republican dissidents and their unionist allies would say “he sold out…..the union is safe”.

    But I think for many the most hateful feature about Adams is his (as they see it) undeserved success.
    And conversely the most endearing feature about David Ervine is that he is a non threatening failure.

  • Turgon

    Scath Sheamais ,
    That is a very interesting and relevant comment. Ervine died quite young and the information he gave was only to come out after his death. Hence, had he named names re wallpaper etc. he would have assumed they would not be there to refute his claims as they woul have been long dead. Of course that is not how it turned out.

    The book’s authors and publishers have not shyed away from naming Adams as the man who ordered Mrs. McConville’s abduction, murder and secret burial. Hence, it is surprising that they have not named the unionist politicians whose living room or rooms Ervine sat in.

    Maybe the authors are trying to protect the process: though that must be wrong since they have named Adams.

    Much more likely is that Ervine was telling lies about the wallpaper nonsense. Indeed the lack of information on Ervine may well be because he was not a credible source. Whilst the authors may have gained something useful from Hughes it looks as though even in daeth Ervine was a non credible liar as well as sectarian criminal, supporter of murderers etc. If that is to be Ervine’s epitaph it is fitting: In life a liar, coward and criminal; in death lacking credibility or relevance.

  • Turgon

    Posts crossed. I am afraid you are completely wrong re “death of David Ervine could be said to have curtailed the growth of the PUP “

    Ervine himnself admitted in one of his rare periods of honesty that he thought he would lose his seat at the last assembly elections. Instead an albeit very small wave of sympathy vote allowed Dawn Purvis (just) to keep the sole PUP seat. Hence, as I have suggested previously Ervine’s politically clever (for the PUP though not himself) death saved them last time. Hopefully come the next assembly elections, however, they will be permanently removed from Stormont.

    That it will be the working class unionists of East Belfast who (hopefully) destroy the PUP is only fitting: they have after all suffered more than most from the deprivations created in significant part by the PUP’s other halves in the UVF.

  • Granni Trixie

    Gladys:had to re-read your post as at first I thought it was written tongue in cheek.

    But no, I think you actually mean it when you state that many loyallists would “appreciate” a bit of credit etc etc.
    First of all I would say to such loyalists (if indeed they exist) – welcome to the club! I believe that many groupings in NI (esp those populated by women) go unacknowledged as having created conditions in which “the peace process” came about. Secondly, I would never have included loyalist paramilitaries in that category as it would be an insult to the many loved ones of victims of their sectarian murders.

    Gladys, if a Gary Mitchell play should come your way, I urge you to see it for his take on how loyalist paramilitaries impact negatively on their communities – all for self gain.

  • pippakin


    There appears to be a problem with the reply option so I hope you see this.

    I know David Ervine had his share of detractors and his past was, to say the least, murky, but he did hold out the prospect of being heard to those who feel middle class unionism continually leaves them behind.

    The UVF, like PIRA are movements the loyalist and republican movements must leave behind if they are to move forward. SF is still at risk of contamination from some of the crimes of the past and similarly the PUP is still affected by its connection to the UVF.

    It has to be remembered that neither SF or the PUP could have survived without the paramilitary connection. The problem for both now is how they rid themselves of the violent past whilst retaining their electoral support in areas still attached to the old paramilitarism.

    I don’t know what would have happened to David Ervine politically. I am sure however that some of his most powerful opposition would have been within unionism.

  • Oracle

    Once the reader has finished the Brendan Hughes section of the “Voices from the Grave” then I would strongly urge them that the remainder of the book with the exception of the book binder and index should be ripped out and put in the blue wheelie bin in their back yard.
    It is only through this action and the subsequent recycling process that anything of any worth can be gained from this despicable waste of natural resources, the braver elements of Slugger’s extended family especially those with a more earthy attitude may perhaps wish to skip the “Blue Bin Process” and just retrieve their scissors from the sewing box to create uniform squares and parallelograms that can be positioned reasonably neatly within arms length of the hardest chair in the smallest room in the house.

    Why the author or for that matter his publishers thought the idea of lining a “Mink Coat” with PVC made any sense completely defies any rational thought.
    It was sycophantic dross that neither asked any meaningful questions, addressed any serious issues in an honest way, or challenged any answers given using rational or history.
    The author and his publisher were obviously so excited about the Hughes story and so beholding to the politics of the supplying institute for the information that they paid a heavy price in quality control when it came to the end product.

  • loftholdingswood

    It will be interesting to see come the May 2011 elections exactly what both the PUP and UPRG intend to do to develop their political base. I understand that the UPRG will do a trial run and put up their main representative in South Belfast to stand in Banbridge at District Council level. There appears to be something of a shift in focus with the UPRG in particular amid claims of seeking to promote working class issues in Loyalist areas. Anyone who read the Newsletter article under the “Union 2021” banner would have been struck at the positively socialist leanings of the writer. What to make of it all is entirely another matter.

    The PUP seem to be in utter decline. Will they be putting up candidates next May?

  • JAH

    Turgon wrote:
    “That it will be the working class unionists of East Belfast who (hopefully) destroy the PUP is only fitting: they have after all suffered more than most from the deprivations created in significant part by the PUP’s other halves in the UVF.”

    As Dawn has left the PUP I doubt if there will be any PUP candidates standing. Unlike TUV they understand splitting the vote. However, I can guarantee that working class loyalists will help destroy TUV by treating these would be BNPalikes with the utter contempt they showed earlier in the year.

    Ervine, lest we forget as most of his detractors conveniently have, ensured that there was support in strong loyalist areas for the GF agreement. So in that light the indignation of Turgon and his associates is readily understandable. At a pivotal moment in Irish history he made a difference. That’s his importance. He helped change history and turn Ulster away from the sectarian hellhole TUV want us to return to.

    His early death is all our loss.

  • Banjaxed

    “But what is striking about the book is its imbalance: 285 pages devoted to Hughes, just 179 to Ervine”
    I’m amazed that Gladys is so ‘struck’ by this imbalance. If Ed Moloney had a history of objectivity in reporting on the Adams factor, I might well have been ‘struck’ also. But he hasn’t, so I wasn’t.

    On the other hand, in the history of the most recent ‘troubles’, as the IRA played a more significant part in changing the political (and actual!) landscape than did the UVF, perhaps they deserve more pages. At the end of the day, apart from their well known sectarian atrocities and on-going gangsterism, what have the UVF achieved in the last 40 years of operations? If nothing else, David Irving was an excellent self-publicist with a witty and pithy phrase but to what end? One or two (at most, I think) public representatives? Hardly an earth shifting political movement. Whereas Adams, like him or loathe him, successfully steered the IRA from the way of the gun into mainstream politics. They are in government here in the North and could well end up as power brokers in the South in the near future.

    This is by no means minimising or shielding one’s eyes from what the IRA has done in the past, but I think we have to give a certain amount of credit to Adams for, late as it might have been, his foresight in recognising that there had to be a better way forward than the spilling of blood on our streets.

  • Scath Sheamais

    JAH wote: “As Dawn has left the PUP I doubt if there will be any PUP candidates standing. Unlike TUV they understand splitting the vote.”

    Mark Ervine of the PUP has said he will stand against Dawn Purvis at the next election.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think that Granni Trixie states it as it is. And in a sense is much closer to the loyalist working class than David Ervine.Full marks for breaking the unwritten taboo that nothing bad must be said about “David Ervine…..Visionary”

    Its a gross calumny on Protestant working class people who I have known all my life to equate them with the likes of David Ervine and paramilitarism.
    Im not sold on his myth.
    But it has a familiar ring to it. Working class lad goes to jail. Reads a book. Gets released and is lionised by (mostly Dublin) media society as an authentic voice because theyve never met a Protestant before. Or a Northerner. Or anyone from the working class (North or South).
    An Cultúrlann in West Belfast and the local Kneebreakers in East Belfast are the natural homes of men with a whiff of cordite who gullible people find “interesting”…in much the same way that Jimbo Jones and Nelson Muntz are interesting in the Springfield Elementary Scoolyard.
    Ervine was one such person.
    Gaining a reputation for getting up early, he was able to lie in bed all day.
    While his death was early and untimely, he frankly never succeeded in weaning the UVF away from violence.

  • pippakin


    But you are doing what so many do! It is not the terrorism that some may lean toward but the socialism he later represented. If his socialism was surface only, well he is not the only one from the north who wear their socialism to hide the mink coat.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Im not sure what you mean pippakin.
    My point was that the Dublin (and London and Belfast) Overclass love their working class heroes and enjoy a chat with them over the vol au vents.
    Of course these people have had the great advantage of not seeing the people Mr Ervine spoke for up close and personal.
    And would of course run a mile if they actually did meet one.
    As Ive said this type of “social bandit” can be found in many parts of Belfast and for some reason are more interesting than ordinary people.

  • JJ Malloy

    Ervine refused to talk about any of the operations (ie murders) that he was involved with in the UVF. He was picked up with a bomb he was going to plant in a pub. One can only imagine the other outrages he was involved with.

    He refused to talk about these operations because after 30 years he still was unable to articulate any reasonable defense of his actions. One does not defend your community by indiscriminately killing innocents of the ‘other’ community.

    I was disappointed by his section of the book. I did take some things away from it but overall I was hoping for more.

  • pippakin


    I’m sorry if I misunderstood your comment. I thought I sensed a contempt for David Ervine which, for some, does not extend to the republican counterpart.

    I agree there are some among the ‘chattering’ classes who love to warm their hands and their sense of self importance at the fire of the so called ‘working class hero’.

  • Stephen Blacker

    What a brilliant post for Turgon,

    He must be so excited getting to make and repeat his vile comments about someone he has never met, talked to or even listened to. Watch your blood pressure!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Unionists successfully confuted their ‘interpretation’ and refuted their actions. Those actions being, as Turgon, like the vast majority of Unionists, said, sectarian murders.

    Unionism, since before partition, has maintained a relationship with loyalist paramilitarism. Sometimes close, sometimes further away, but always there to be called upon. This relationship was first used to force the British government to partition the island.

    Subsequent events such as the UWC strike, the 1978 strike, Third Force, Ulster Resistance, the whole Clontibret thing, Ian Paisley marching people around waving gun licenses (and even talked about civil war at one point), Peter Robinson talking about people being organized and command structures being established .. Bill Craig giving a speech were he discussed “liquidating the enemy” ..

    But yes, outside of those events, Unionism is a completely law abiding and civil political force and never had anything to do with the men of violence.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I actually agree with Fitzy here. Back in the day I would have been among those supporting the “top up” system which was introduced for the 1996 Forum elections to enable loyalists to get representation. At that time the loyalists there were talking sense. On the campaign trail in 1998 I even had the somewhat questionable privilege of shaking hands with John White in the middle of Rathcoole. The loyalists were talking reconciliation and they seemed to be talking sense as well.

    I guess for nationalists, or people from a nationalist background, it was refreshing to hear people from the loyalist background not repeat the slavish “unionists are law-abiding pacifists” nonsense and admit what their business was, while publicly committing themselves to working to stop it. I would say a lot of those early loyalist votes came from people of these backgrounds who thought it right to give these constructive voices a chance.

    Loyalist political leaders by and large still talk sense, even if they are talking out of the sides of their mouths. Although they had a brief period of success in the 1990s things soon declined. The loyalist paramilitaries themselves got bored and didn’t fancy giving up their criminal means or their grip on the communities they claimed to be protecting. The unionist electorate, it appears, never really warmed to them which is why it really winds me up when people say “working class unionists have no voice”. They do have a voice – they all vote for the UUP and DUP. It’s not impossible for me to believe that the standard of representation offered by the two big parties to working class unionist areas is poor, but if the loyalists think it is their job to change it then they need to persuade these people to vote for them. It’s no good going for glof/tea/biscuits with Prime Ministers, political leaders, Presidents and whoever else will listen if they can’t persuade their own people to provide them with their vote, after all these years.

  • Stephen Blacker

    The Late David Ervine was a genuine Peace Maker along with so many others from both communities. When I first met David he showed a whole new way of thinking and it changed me from being a bigot to someone who looked at people for who they are and not the label that society put on them.

    I listened to him plead with Peter Taylor, Investigative Journalist, to look into why the Police would not or could not get rid of Drug Dealers in Loyalist areas even when the community shopped them. Not a plea from a liar or scumbag as some of the posts above would have you believe.

    The Late David Ervine always tried his best to lead people away from our violent past but they always jabbed him in the eye with another murder. Time has shown that this probably was of no fault of David Ervine’s teachings but more to do with the “get out of jail free card” given to certain people by MI5.

  • Comrade Stalin

    (sorry for the triple posting)

    Turgon, on the subject of wallpaper and so on. There are several photographs around of Ian Paisley sitting down with loyalist paramilitary figures such as Andy Tyrie and Glenn Barr. There are more recent photos, and indeed footage, of William McCrea (still being returned as MP for S Antrim) having a grand old yarn with Billy Wright for reasons which remain unclear. Given these facts, which I doubt you’ll dispute, why is it so difficult to believe that David Ervine was in Paisley’s parlour ?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think I introduced the “whiff of cordite” republican to this thread about Saint David as a way of staving off the “whataboutery” if I was merely seem to attack Ervine.
    I should have enough credit here for talking openly about the link between Sinn Féin-IRA and openly talking about republican terrorism but I always feel obliged to say something that addresses the need for balance in every post.
    There is a crucial difference between Ervine and Adams.
    The Overclass patronised Ervine, fed him vol au vents at seminars, wrote about him in the Guardian, fully expecting that once delivered he would never make a real impact in politics. In that sense he was never actually a threat to the Overclass.
    The unforgivable sin that Adams has committed is that he ate the Overclass vol au vents, got interviewed in the Guardian and took over the show by actually getting to lead the bigger republican party.
    That wasnt anticipated by the Overclass. So he is vilifiled in a way that co-terrorist Ervine is not.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Comrade Stalin,
    Thanks for saying what youve said.
    Not surprisingly I agree with you. For all the hype Ervine never delivered the UVF. And of course the loyalists did not take to the ballot box as enthusiastically as republican terrorists.
    But I would add that David Trimble was publicly (at Drumcree) seen to talk with David Ervine.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    oops………Billy Wright.

  • Granni Trixie

    Stephen B: I accept that you are sincere about a conversion due to the Peace Maker’s “teachings”…but can you at least grasp that to some of us David Ervine is a classic example of how myths are constructed?

    FJH: yer age is showing …vol au vents?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Granni Trixie…….vol au vents. No seminar is complete without vol au vents. But seeing as we are old friends can you get me into the Alliance Conference for free?

  • pippakin


    I simply say that David Ervine was every bit as significant as Gerry Adams is.

    All this talk of the way loyalists vote ignores the fact: loyalists will stay with the devil they know rather than risk splitting the vote and letting nationalists or republicans in.

    Do they still do Vol au vents?

  • Stephen Blacker

    Granni Trixie,

    The Late David Ervine always knew that some people would always look on him as scum, myths are painted in indivduals heads by their knowledge and experiences of different issues and people. I knew David Ervine as an exceptional person who lived his political life as a stalwart of Conflict Resolution. He taught me not to be a bigot and he always challenged racism or bigotry if he heard or seen it.

    That is what I wittnessed while knowing David Ervine, he was not a myth to me. I can understand why people think like they do, add 2+2 and get 9. Life would be boring if everyone thought the same.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I simply say that David Ervine was every bit as significant as Gerry Adams is.

    There is no measurable basis upon which this can be said to be the case.

    Stephen, I wouldn’t call Ervine scum (Raymond McCord Snr did, though), I think in later life he had the right idea. My main problem is the idea of treating someone as a representative despite their being rejected at the ballot box. The DUP and UUP may or may not be bastards, but in a democracy you have to deal with the people who won the election, not the people who lost.

  • Stephen Blacker,
    I find it almost amusing the way you always refer to “the late” David Ervine. It is a bit like strict Muslims saying peace be upon him if the mention The Prophet’s name.

    Your claims about Ervine are just that a series of claims. however, there are also a series of facts:

    He was a convicted terrorist who as a minimum intended to murder people with a car bomb. He never admitted to any other crimes but it is odd that he was such a senior loyalist despite being caught on his first bombing mission

    He never gave any information to help the police arrest loyalist criminals

    He stated on television that he had not forgotten to make bombs

    He described murdering Catholics for the sole reason of being Catholics as “returning the serve”

    Ervine was a thug and a criminal who had told serial lies. That you are so captivated by the memory of such a man is a depressing commentary on your own views.

  • pippakin

    Comrade Stalin

    “I simply say that David Ervine was every bit as significant as Gerry Adams is.

    There is no measurable basis upon which this can be said to be the case.”

    No of course there is not: one spent years in prison and worked to encourage his community to accept peaceful means.

    The other spent years in prison and worked to encourage his community to accept peaceful means.

    One died before any of us could know what he might have gone on to achieve. The other is still strutting his stuff and failing outstanding allegations, will continue to do so.

    I’m a nationalist but I do try to see the other point of view.

  • Granni Trixie

    Pippakin: there is whree we differ – I prefer to try to keep to a consistent moral line,let the chips fall as they may.
    This is why I often end up with “a plague on all your houses”.

    You would be welcomed with open arms to an APNI conference FJH, not to say that we would be honoured to have you. Admission is kept low but if this is a problem I am sure you could talk your way in.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Pippakin, understanding other points of view is grand but a sense of perspective is important. Ervine can be compared to Adams but that doesn’t mean they are equivalent. Adams has built a large and successful political party and has a large personal mandate. He never obtained any significant traction within the community he claimed to represent.

  • pippakin

    Granni Trixie

    There is nothing inconsistent in recognising the efforts of those who worked for peace.

    Many terrorist leaders have gone on to successful political or other peaceful careers. I simply recognise David Ervine for what he did.

  • Stephen Blacker

    Comrade Stalin,

    So in that way of thinking anyone who is not elected cannot represent a group or community – strange thinking in a society like ours.

  • Jj


    That you are in a party who has Vance as its economic spokeperson and who apparently believes that “Muslims are the cancer of the world” is a depressing commentary on your own views.

  • Stephen Blacker


    It is a mark of respect that I say the Late….! Something that is selective with you! So it is serial lying when you admit the murder of a catholic is a way of returning serve to the republican community or to say you still know how to make bombs?

    You never knew the Late David Ervine and you can tell me “i am so captivated by the memory of such a man” how arrogant are you!?

  • pippakin

    Comrade Stalin

    SF the political party is as old as the republic. Gerry Adams took it over and true enough enlarged it but he did not create it.

    All I’m saying is both Adams and Ervine have their past in common and both are in their own way deserving of the respect some have for them.

    As it happens in the real world I would vote for neither, but that does not stop me recognising their efforts or their achievements and I do know their achievements are not the same but arguably without the efforts of one the other would not have achieved as much.

    Is that so radical a view. I don’t think so.

  • Granni Trixie

    FJH: another mistake “Admission is kept low” ought to have read, “price of admission is kept low” – we want to keep admission to conference HIGH!.

  • Granni Trixie,
    Can I come?

  • Granni Trixie

    Turgon: all welcome.

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: Bill Craig giving a speech were he discussed “liquidating the enemy”
    You shouldn’t really put quote marks round that unless you are ready to claim it is a quote.

  • Joe Bryce

    Turgon, you often make insightful comments. Don’t you think it’s time that we from the unionist tradition recognise that NI iteself only exists because we, i.e. our ancestors, threatened and sometimes perpetrated terrorism in order to bring it into being? Surely an honest history of 1912-21 acknowledges that? That being so, can we honestly, fairly, decently, wash our hands of David Ervine, or indeed – I appreciate this is a challenge – decline to take credit for the distance he travelled?

    I personally am coming to the view that it is time for an all-Ireland accommodation as part of a more general renegotiation of relationships in these islands (my family is as much Scottish as Ulster). But if partition is to remain, and republicanism tells us it is accommodated to that if it is what 50% + 1 in the 6 counties want, then it behoves us to tell the truth of how we got here. And I do not think that truth is one that allows any of us so blithely to disown David Ervine, his crimes or indeed his achievements.

  • Joe Bryce,
    Up to a point I can see where you are coming from. I could point out that the unionists of the Home Rule crisis did not take part in major criminality. Odd as it may seem importing guns was not then a criminal act in those days I believe. Furthermore and more importantly the unionists of then did not indulge in a sectarian murder campaign.

    However, despite all the above I admit to a certain anxiety about the events of 1912 and how they might otherwise have turned out.

    The situation of 1969 onwards is completely different. I agree that there was considerable discrimination against Catholics. It may not have been quite as much or as organised as republicans at times claim but it was there none the less and it was completely unacceptable. We as unionists need to accept and apologise for that.

    Moving on there was no cause in the last fifty years here which justified the murder of a single one of the victims of the troubles.

    The truth of how we got here is that the likes of David Ervine murdered Catholics for pure reasons of sectarian hate: yet we are told he was a peace maker. Utter rubbish: he was no more a peace maker than the dentist Howell was a life saver for the last ten years. Just because Howell has murdered no one in the last number of years does not make him laudable. Just because Ervine had ceased his vile campaign of bigotry that does not make him a hero. A true hero would have completely repudiated his crimes and attempted to help to bring to justice the perpetrators of the vile crimes of the UVF. It is in that context we should view the “achievements” of Ervine. he “achieved” at the end what almost all of us had done previously: not hating and murdering our fellow countrymen and women because they go to chapel rather than church.

    As a final remark let me remind you that Ervine’s mentor Gusty Spence first committed murder in 1966 at a time when there was no IRA. For the UVF to claim to be retaliating for IRA crimes is utter nonsense. They were a bunch of fascist bigoted thugs. the fact that Ervine could sort of (and only sort of) speak in a semi articulate fashion does not make him any less a thug.

  • anne warren

    I appreciate so much of what many posters have written in their assessment of Ervine and the UVFas little more than sectarian murderers, particularly Turgon’s present and earlier post in this thread.

    However I question the accuracy of this statement
    ” Furthermore and more importantly the unionists of then did not indulge in a sectarian murder campaign”.

    A glance at any history book will show that
    sectarian rioting and murder of Roman Catholic subjects has been endemic to NI, particularly Belfast, since the mid 19th century.
    Fear of Nationalists achieving places in government even made a hostile mob, many armed as Carson later admitted, surround Winston Churchill when as a Liberal he was invited to talk about Home Rule in September 1912. The 1920s and 1930s were regularly interupted by sectarian attacks on Catholic areas and individuals. (Bibliography available if anyone is interested)

    I know it is very hard for Protestants to question the myths that inform the political background of NI but if Turgon is an example of how far some have travelled towards what I call normal British values of tolerance and acceptance etc, I believe there is hope for us all in NI

  • joeCanuck


    I know that it is impossible for anyone to know what another individual is thinking, but where does repentance and forgiveness figure in this for those who have declared repentance and sorrow for their horrible actions?

  • joe,
    Repentance and turning away are very valid. I do not think one has to be religious necessarily to turn away from horrible crimes in a valid fashion. I say that because Ervine was an atheist and that is in no way my complaint about him.

    The problem is that Ervine claimed to have turned away from crime but continued to help and succour those who continued criminality: all the while claiming to be helping bring them from crime. However, after years and years they were (and are) still committing crimes yet Ervine still made a virtue of supposedly bringing them away from crime. At some point one has to state that Ervine was not bringing the criminals away from crime but rather giving them political cover.

    Had Ervnie truly turned away from the crimes of the loyalists he would either have broken with them completely when they continued murder or best of all would have gone to the police and helped in their arrest and prosecution: that would have been truly courageous.

    Furthermore Ervine’s turning away from crime was given the lie by his stating on television that he had not forgotten how to make bombs and describing the murder of men, women and children as “returning the serve.” A man who truly regretted his criminal past would not be making that sort of remark.

    Ervine’s conversion to the path of peace was partial, incomplete, self serving and dishonest. The fact that some in the media lauded him and some misguided people like Mr. Blacker seem to regard him as some sort of secular saint should not blind us to his loathsome reality as an unrepentant sectarian thug and criminal.

    Ervine and his ilk make me at times ashamed to be a unionist. My only defence is that I totally opposed those sectarian criminals from as early as I can remember. I note as a matter of pride that the overwhelming majority of Protestants and Catholics I know here rejected totally the murderous ways of the sectarian bigots who proclaimed that they murdered their neighbours on our behalf. In that I have hope that maybe we can have peace. however, we must forget neither the victims nor the loathsome perpetrators.

  • anne warren,
    I know we agree on little but thank you for your kind remarks about me


  • Stephen Blacker


    It must be great to know everything about every subject even when you make the things up and then start to believe it. Your judgment of the Late David Ervine proves you are ignorant about the life of this man. Try and educate yourself about facts instead of spewing these vile lies to satisfy your own failings. Before you piss on someone’s grave at least have the courtesy to speak from a position of knowledge.

  • Fact: convicted criminal; had been attempting to plan murderous bomb
    Fact: mouth piece of murderers
    Fact: stated murder was “returning the serve”
    Fact: gloated on television that he had not forgotten how to make bombs
    Fact: never helped in the apprehension of loyalist murderers
    Fact: continued to be mouth piece for murderers after repeated murders and no sign of decommissioning
    Fact: claimed to be willing to die for Ulster; a total lie.Hhe was keen to make others die for his vision of Ulster: there is a world of difference

    Those are the facts Mr. Blacker. You can tell me all you want about your experiences of your secular saint. However, they are merely your claims and I have seen you produce absolutely no evidence for any of your claims. Indeed I begin to wonder whether you are as naive as you appear or whether you are just another lie telling cheerleader for criminality. I will, however, give you the benefit of the doubt and regard you as a fool rather than a liar.

    Finally I will go beyond the facts re Ervine and suggest: Reasonable suspicion; probably a murderer himself

  • joeCanuck


    Thanks for your thoughts on than. I don’t think I have the right to judge an individual other than,
    as always I guess, it’s actions rather than words that reveal the inner nature of someone..
    Another individual that I can’t reconcile myself to regarding repentance is that man who claims that he is sorry for (some) things that PIRA did even though he was never a member of that organization and has no difficulty participating in “remembrance” ceremonies/

  • Stephen Blacker


    I would hate to see what murder and mayhem there would be heaped on Northern Ireland if the thinking of the TUV ever got its way. People like the Late David Ervine were drawn into the conflict like lots of others and he tried to use his experences to help the situation.

    His statement about returning the serve is a fact of our dirty terrorist conflict. It is only your idea of “gloating” & “mouth piece” – your blind hate stops you thinking anything else.

    I do not understand what you mean when you said the Late David Ervine “was keen to make others die for his vision of” – (I guess you ment to say) “Northern Ireland”? Not anywhere close to the man I knew.

    I may be classed a fool by some people and that would be their democratic right but I would class myself a fool if I decided to follow the TUV. I can tell you of the Late David Ervine but as you say it is falling on closed ears, a trait that was perfected by the TUV.

  • Comrade Stalin


    So in that way of thinking anyone who is not elected cannot represent a group or community – strange thinking in a society like ours.

    Why is it strange that our representatives be those that we select at the ballot box ?

    We need to be very clear about this – working class unionist communities have had many opportunities to formally appoint loyalist politicians as their representatives. In the vast majority of cases they have rejected those opportunities and voted for representatives in the DUP/UUP instead. It’s completely ridiculous to say “yes, we know you voted for the DUP guy, but we’re going to allow this other bloke that you voted against to act on your behalf, because he killed a few people once and now says he’s sorry”.

    I’m not saying that your intentions are anything other than genuine, but if that’s all that we needed the British and Irish governments would just ignore the election results and negotiate with the Alliance Party. I doubt many would stand for that.


    Odd as it may seem importing guns was not then a criminal act in those days I believe.

    No, but treason was, as Mr Casement found out, and the Ulster volunteers threatened to overthrow the government if it did not act as they wished.

    We as unionists need to accept and apologise for that.

    It is genuinely good to hear you say that.

  • Stephen Blacker

    Comrade Stalin,

    When I said what i did it was because we have resident groups and other similar groups and their spokespersons are mostly not elected. The Late David Ervine was elected and did look after the interests of voters from East Belfast.

    I think with your last post I must have misunderstood your overall point.

  • Stephen Blacker,
    You told me to educate myself about the facts surrounding David Ervine. I pointed out a series of facts and you have ignored or tried to minimise them. You keep referring to the man you knew as different to the known publicly stated comments of Ervine. Now either you are lying about Ervine or if he were so reasonable in private we can add the term hypocrite to sectarian criminal, bomber and accomplice of sectarian murderers (if by some chance not a murderer himself).

    You say Ervine was drawn into the conflict. That is nonsense. He had free will on this subject (unless you want to adopt an ultra Calvinist position that none of us have free will). Most people in working class unionist (as with working class nationalist, rural unionist and rural nationalist) areas had no part in the crimes committed here.

    Had Ervine wanted to use his experiences later he could have named names and helped the police arrest the murderers: he chose not to do so.

    If it had not been for people like Ervine there would have been no conflict. Remember Ervine’s mentor Spence was murdering people long before Adams and co started. We can state with absolute certainty that but for Billy Hutchinson there would be two more people alive here today. I suspect that that is a conservative statement and I would be surprised if the same or more cannot be said for the vicious sectarian thug Ervine.

  • Stephen Blacker


    You talk about the Late David Ervine’s publicly stated comments, well so am I, you never listened to anything he said or if you did you took what you wanted out of it. He was drawn into the conflict after Bloody Friday when all the bombs went off in Belfast. I know your black & white world does not allow for that.

    The facts you quoted at 11.48pm mostly make good sound bites – 1 & 3 are widly known, 2, 3 & 6 are your interpretation, 7, I dont understand, as I stated earlier.

    Number 5 is one I will answer, the Late David Ervine wanted to stop anyone from taking the life path into the paramilitary world he did & to do this he had to talk to the people committing the crimes. This would be a lot easier from within, so to start naming people would have made this impossible. If the Late David Ervine had named people it would have lead to a “Super Grass” trial and none of them have been successful to date. Evidence is needed, not the word of the person you discribe time and time again as unworthy or words to that effect.

    Your ideas of the history of the “Troubles” is a lot different to me, I have seen and talked to people that would be DUP come TUV supporters that were happy when the “serve was returned” strange as that might seem to you that is a fact too.

  • Stephen Blacker


    Here is a speech made by one of those much hated people you love to castigate.

    Long Kesh 12th July 1977.

    We never tire of celebrating the advent in history when William of Orange achieved for us in 1690 Civil and Religious freedom. We, the Protestants of Ireland, were the persecuted in those days and now things are somewhat reversed. But is persecution necessary for the establishment of the inherent freedoms of mankind? Has persecution ever changed a person’s views? Do we really want freedom and the pursuit of happiness at the expense of some other unfortunate soul?…I submit that it is fear which makes one people oppress another…We are living in the most socially and legalistically oppressive society in the Western Hemisphere…Polarisation complete with one section of the community cut off from the other except for some middle-class contacts which appear to be more concerned about their class than community…WE are a police state with the accompanying allegations of torture and degrading treatment to suspects undergoing interrogation…Even yet we still have men nonsensically counselling that victory is just around the corner. Victory over whom – the IRA? Or do they mean victory over the Roman Catholic community?…The fears of Roman Catholics will not go away because bigoted Unionist politicians say so.

    We in Northern Ireland are plagued with super-loyalists…If one does not agree with their bigoted and fascist views then one is a ‘taig-lover’, or a ‘communist’…Unfortunately, we have too many of these people in our own ranks. No fascist or bigot can expect sympathy or understanding in the UVF compounds…The sooner we realise that our trust has been abused, and the so-called political leadership we followed was simply a figment the sooner we will attempt to fend for ourselves politically and to commence articulation in that direction…ours was a sick society long before the fighting men came on the scene. Life in Ulster before the troubles was artificial…We want employment and decent homes like all human beings, and Loyalists will no longer suffer their deprivation stoically lest their outcries be interpreted as disloyalty…The politicians seemingly cannot or will not give us the peace we so earnestly desire, so I therefore call upon all the paramilitaries to call a universal ceasefire. To open up dialogue with each other in order to pursue ways and means of making such a ceasefire permanent. Eventually Loyalist and Republican must sit down together for the good of our country. Dialogue will have to come about sometime, so why not now? There is no victory in Ulster, not for the IRA, or the UVF, the police or the army. There is only victory for humanity and common sense.

    Gusty Spence

    This speech is held in the Linenhall Library, Belfast.

  • Turgon

    Stephen Blacker,
    A more revolting and self justifying load of nonsense I have rarely read: except of course I have read the speech before. It is, however, always worth repeating it to see the depths of self justification Spence was about. Let us just take a few points:

    It is highly unclear whether he understood the history of 1690 but the sound bite at the start is a gross simplification.

    This was not the most oppressive police state in the Western Hemisphere: nowhere near it. That is utter nonsense and a self erving lie designed to convince the listeners that somehow it was not their fault they had committed crimes and were justly in gaol; as is all that nonsense about fighting men.

    Gusty Spence was not a “fighting man” he was a murderer. He murdered a Catholic barman, Peter Ward, for being a Catholic. Yet in all that speech not a word of remorse for his crimes; not a word for his victim Mr. Ward; not a word for the other victims of the UVF. No it is all about how hard done to the terrorists were. Spence should have considered himself fortunate that he was not at the end of a rope for his crimes (not that I support the death penalty but it had only just been abolished).

    The discussion about ceasefires is so that terrorists can have dialogue: completely subverting the democratic process.

    Stephen I am interested in your comment: “Your ideas of the history of the “Troubles” is a lot different to me, I have seen and talked to people “

    What age are you? Do you know anything about the troubles apart from what some “old soldiers” (actually terrorist criminals) told you. The simple reality is that the overwhelming majority of people here from all classes and creeds had no part in and no support for the violence. There were a number of sectarian murder gangs and your heroes Spence and Ervine were leading members of one of those murder gangs. That makes them sectarian thugs. I suspect you are too young, too naive and too brainwashed by hero worship of Ervine et al. to see that. Evil bigots try to seduce impressionable young men into their way of thinking. It seems that Ervine was remarkably successful in your case.

    By all means continue to worship Ervine. Hopefully the electorate will ensure the cleansing from Stormont of all the PUP/UVF mouth pieces past and present. If I could choose that over a single TUV MLA I would glady do so. The sooner the vile oppressors of the working class unoionist community are purged by the electorate from Stormont the better.

  • Stephen Blacker


    Your dismissal of Gusty Spence’s speech is no surprise. I dont think this was the first speech Gusty made but I think it proved to be 20 years ahead of its time.

    I am old enough to know that the history of the “Troubles” is not the same in County Antrim as it is in Fermanagh, according to the information you report. The evil bigot you refer to when talking about the Last David Ervine was a very strange person because he showed me how not to be a bigot and racist and I know a number of others he did the same thing to.

    It is a shame you have no reconciliation or forgiveness in your world. No doubt the TUV will get a few MLA seats especially up here in North Antrim and make no mistake a lot of TUV votes will come from closet loyalist paramilitary supporters.

  • Turgon

    Stepher Blacker,
    Odd that you comment about the troubles in County Antrim. I was born and raised in County Londonderry where there was little loyalist terrorism: sadly not none and I very vaguely knew Torrens Knight (and was pretty scared of him even as a child). However, in rural South Londonderry there was very little supprt for loyalist terrorists and in Coleraine little more.

    Moving on I went to secondary school in Ballymoney (Co. Antrim of course) where again there was precious little support for loyalist terrorists. Maybe there was a bit around Ballymena I do not know though the complete lack of support for the PUP etc. would indicate against that (yourself as a dishonourable exception).

    The simple reality is that there was very little support for loyalist terrorists throughout Northern Ireland. There was a bit in Belfast and a bit in Craigavon. However, overwhelmingly more was the problem of tiny numbers of criminals ruling working class estates and holding their population in a form of thralldom; unable to prevent the extortion rackets, prostitution, drug dealing etc. etc. Many of the working class unionists who could moved out of those areas and gradually many became sink estates.

    Whilst this depressing dynamic of urban decay was not in any way unique to working class unionist estates in NI, the loyalists paramilitaries, again not the sole problem were certainly a major part of it.

    Ervine and co claimed to help these working class communities but seemed throughout much more interested in helping their friends in the UVF / UDA etc. That is presumably why on the only occassions when working class unionists got to pass judgement on them (the ballot box) they failed so dismally.

    I am very in favour of reconcillation and forgiveness. However, reconcillation and forgiveness are provided by the victims and not the perpetrators.

    As I said above I see no hint of remorse in Gusty Spence’s speech. Did he publicly beg forgiveness from Mr. Ward’s family? If he did Mr. Ward’s family could have forgiven him if, and only if, they chose to.

    In terms of true repentance that requires turning away decisively from previous actions. Did Spence (or Ervine) sever all links to the UVF: no they did not Spence was there announcing their ceasefire (after which they murderd several dozen more people).

    At that time Spence apologised to the innocent victims. However, that was mealy mouthed and weasel worded. He should have done it years before when he supposedly renounced violence and in addition he should have clearly admitted that he murdered Mr. Ward.

    Furthermore all the victims of the UVF / UDA were innocent: not what Spence meant at all. Even on the extremely rare occassions when the loyalists murdered an IRA man they were still murdering an innocent: no one set up the UVF as judge and jury in this state and we do not have the death penalty.

  • Skintown Lad

    I agree with Turgon’s view above. I have always had huge difficulties with some fellow unionists who admired Ervine but hated Gerry Adams. Those unionists were and are opposed to violence in very strong terms but saw Ervine as one of the good guys. As I saw it, the good guys were the ones who never lowered themselves in the first place. The ones who never engaged in a phoney war driven by hate but clothed in ‘aspiration’ and ‘protection’. The bad guys could become the good guys, but not just by saying that any more violence is wrong. They had to recognise that the violence before that was wrong too; that it was always wrong. They had to turn away from those who wished to carry on and do whatever it took to stop them. The old argument is that Ervine could not have led loyalism to peace from ‘without’, he had to remain ‘within’. But every man has his own choice to make, and if they all did the right thing and decided to move ‘without’, there would be no need for leadership ‘within’, as there would be no one there. Instead, we have the ridiculous situation where those still ‘within’ think they are owed something, just for behaving more like the rest of us always have done.

    On another note, it is a sad indictment of nationalist blindness that unionists like Turgon will continually be seen as the flip side of violent dissident republicanism, when on the important issue, i.e whether people should be killed or not, his views are about as far from that as you can get.

  • Stephen Blacker


    History will show that the Late David Ervine did more to bring peace to Northern Ireland than most other politicans on the unionist side.

    We have run in different circles and in my world there is a lot of people that supported the violence of loyalist paramilitaries but would never vote for anyone who was seen as connected to them. This is also something that you seem to not grasp because the PUP were not a paramilitary group and condemned violence from any quarter.

    As I stated in previous posts the Late David Ervine’s efforts were made more difficult by the actions of people (not all) who ended up having the law on their side with the help of MI5 so much so that some people got away with murder – disgraceful in the extreme. Even the RUC complained but were powerless according to the Ombudsman.

  • slappymcgroundout

    The reason why Turgon has his panties in a bunch over the late David Ervine, hearkening back, of course, to Turgon’s discussion with John from East Belfast over “Irish”:


    One can otherwise know from whence Turgon comes when one considers that Big Gerry, Mark Durkan, Peter Robinson, Reg Empey, Lord Trimble, Albert Reynolds, Dermot Ahern, Peter Hain, Hugh Orde, etc., were all in attendance at the late Mr. Ervine’s funeral. Absent were Jim Allister, David Vance and Turgon. Pretty much says it all. Well, almost all. The other relevant item, of course, for those who pay attention to such things, was the embrace between the late Mr. Ervine’s widow and Big Gerry. That well and truly said it all, but Turgon, little Jim, and David Vinsanity can’t seem to grasp the moment.

  • joeCanuck

    What measure is that? DeValera put on his top hat and went to the German embassy to offer his condolences on the untimely death of their leader. bah.

  • Turgon

    Steoher Blacker,
    So eventually your attempts at argument collapse and you are left with nonsensical assertions such as “History will show…” along with claims based solsely on personal experience which I cannot therefore refute (nor can you validate) such as “a lot of people supported paramilitaries”

    You are correct of course that the PUP were not a paramilitary group. No they contained huge numbers of members of the UVF, spoke for and defended them, argued against the arrest of UVF members and helped and succored them. However, I agree at some level they were separate just at a level which we normal people cannot see.

    I can only refer you to my previous remarks and skintown lad’s above where he points out that Ervine’s claim that he was more effective “inside” rather than “out” is a self serving lie. From Ervine lying is I suspect the least of his crimes. (Incidentally I think skintown lads is one of the best debunkings of Ervine’s claims that I have seen).

    At some level I despair of you Stephen. It is almost farcially easy to pick your arguments apart. However, you seem (though I suspect young and naive) far from stupid. You are left hero worshiping a man whom most in Northern Ireland regard as a loathsome terrorist godfather and very probably a murderer. Since he is dead Ervine cannot even behave in his loathsome way and so show you the error of your idolisation. Hence, you are trapped in thralldom to a dead terrorist, worshiping at a shrine which the rest of us regard with contempt. I can only hope that one day you will see the foolishness of your views. You might be able to offer your community (the working class unionist community) something but instead you are trapped: one of Ervive’s last acts of hatred towards the people he claimed as his own.

  • Turgon

    Posts crossed. I believe you are an American and as such probably do not understand the funeral thing. Attending a funeral here is a mark of respect centrally to the family of the deceased. I am a bit dubious about all those people attending but it will have been respect for the family as well as people feeling it was “the right thing to do.” Such attendance should in no way be seen as support.

    My own father in law attended the funeral of one of his neighbours many years ago. The deceased was a known IRA man and when his body was removed from the chapel his berret and gloves were placed on the coffin. My father in law had absolutely no time for the IRA (or loyalist criminals) and he knew that would happen but still attended the funeral as a mark of respect.

    As I said I believe you are not from here so you probably do not understand.

  • joeCanuck

    This argument has probably run its course.
    It seems to be a waste of time trying to convince Turgon that his assessment is wrong. He has put forward a good case that Ervine was only partially repentant and his argument is consistent with the TUV’s central thesis that there is no place for terorists in government. Regardless of whteher you agree with that, and I belive that people elected have to be accepted, Turgon should be applauded for his consistent condemnation of “unionist” as well as “republican” terrorists. This is is sharp contrast with other mealy mouthed politicians.

  • Granni Trixie

    Joe – you re mistaken if you think it is only Turgon who holds this assessment of DE – I for one do also.

  • joeCanuck

    No Granni,

    I know there are lots of others.

  • Stephen Blacker


    It is more a case of going around in circles. I cant imagine that you would ever believe that an upright citizen who would claim to be a TUV supporter would be happy that a “return of serve” happened and again you would dismiss anyone who suggested it, I am just telling you the facts of life as I know it, see it and live it.

    During the Late David Ervines life he had given a selective “historian” like you plenty of ammo to castigate him, he knew this would happen and still he put himself and his family through this, the snide remarks and hurtful sentiments for the overall good of our Peace Process.

    It is a lot more difficult to lead from the front and try to change mindsets, something that the Late David Ervine achieved with a lot of people but sadly not all. The main unionist parties would not even sit in the same building as the “Enemy” for years, something the Late David Ervine and others did as they knew there was no other way. Sure look at the stance of the TUV have taken in the build up to this election even they realise Sinn Fein cannot be ignored.

    I guess you despair of me more because I dont think like you, I am proud and honoured to have known the Late David Ervine, unfortunately it was all to brief for me and Northern Ireland. I understand when you state all your nasty and unchristian remarks, that is the nature of our twisted society but your thoughts do not fit with the comments made from every walk of life during the time of this man’s funeral.

    When you gleefully say the “rest of us” I know that it is a group that are in the minority. I do smile at your last sentence, again and again and again you prove that you never knew or wanted to know about this remarkable man who had a vision for Northern Ireland that was capable of getting the two main communities here to live together in peace.

  • joeCanuck


    Let me tell you one of my life’s stories. I was a manager in a large firm. The firm made a mistake, in my opinion, by agreeing at contract negotiations that Union steward would be released from work duties to better be able to represent the workers. Well, they had all day to do so and sometimes , again in my opinion, came up with frivilous stuff which interferred with the smooth running of the plant. They were elected, of course. One, the Chief steward, was just a pain in the arse. He was British and adherred to the philosophy that management and workers had completely different agendas. He caused a lot of grief and took up a lot of our time.
    But here’s the thing; I liked him. We drank together, paired in a pub quiz team (almost always winning), we golfed with our wives, their baby coming along in a pushchair and we entertained them in our house.
    So don’t confuse someone being likeable with any agenda they may have.

  • Stephen,
    I know Ervine was a criminal who intended to murder people: something you never properly address.

    I know Gusty Spence is a murderer something again you never address.

    Still keep worshipping at the throne of Moloch.

  • Stephen Blacker


    Thanks for the wee story. The way I read the meaning is you are trying to tell me just because the Late David Ervine was likable it was all a con?

    I am not that naive if that is what you are saying,

  • Stephen Blacker


    Guess you never read my posts, but I understand that Gusty and the Late David Ervine admitted those facts on a number of occasions, they were in Long Kesh as a result. Also people like yourself would never let them forget it even after they did their time and bent over backwards to reform, your democratic right of course. What more would I need to add?

    Thank you – I will.

  • Stephen Blacker,
    Another lie. Gusty Spence has always claimed he was innocent of the murder of Mr. Ward. However, to be released a life sentence prisoner must admit his guilt. Hence, again we see the loathsome lying hypocrisy of Spence.

    I would be happy to accept their repentance if they admitted their crimes: again it is hard to believe that Ervine was only a failed bomber. Then after admitting their crimes they should turn away completely from the previous path and admit that all their actions in it were wrong. Skintown lad has above pointed out that Ervine’s half in half out nonsense does not cut it as any form of repentance. Then I would want the families of the murdered to accept the bone fides of the likes of Spence.

    If all that sounds excessive even ridiculous remember these people for no good reason ended another human being’s life. It was no accident but a concious decision based on Spence’s own loathsome bigotry.

    I do not believe in the death penalty but a murderer should have his or her life ruined for the ghastly crime they have committed. Prancing around receiving plaudits for now obeying the same laws the rest of us never broke is not what I would call a ruined life. Nor is gloating that you have no forgotten how to make bombs or that murder was returning the serve. Had Ervine or Spence really turned away from violence it might be fair enough. Only cheerleaders and those gullible enough to be deceived believe he had really adopted the path of peace: the one most of us never left.

    Truly you are worshipping a Morloch in Ervine.

  • joeCanuck


    No. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that because someone is likeable, it doesn’t mean that they are not a con. I know nothing much about Ervine. I have been away from N.I. since 1981 and, until SOT came along, was pretty much bereft of any detailed knowledge of what was going on over there. So, I have no personal opinion of Ervine.

  • Brian

    Did you read his comments in VftG?

    He talks of the bombings in Dublin that killed 30 innocent people with no regret whatsoever. Basically saying they had it coming etc. He passes over the mass murder of innocent people drinking in pubs or taxi drivers tortured. In his whole narrative he seems to come off as proud of his position or the role he played. He was a terrorist who admitted his goal was solely to cause terror and death–he didn’t even bring up ‘legitmate targets’ or any of the other crap other terrorists do to ease their consciounces. He obviously enjoyed the life.

    Yet he gets all heated about the Late Billy Wright because he challenged his authority or his reasoning. He shows little emotion when talking about loyalists bombs that maimed and killed dozens but can get worked up over the King Rat.

    I don’t know him personally, and maybe he did some good in the peace process. However, IMO, he was most likely little more than another sectarian murderer who never regretted his crimes…albeit one who happened to be somewhat articulate (a rarity on the loyalist side to be sure).

  • Jj

    Its very hard to square Christian beliefs, or at least the beliefs and teaching of the JC I was taught about, with the views of the JC that members of the TUV seem to have a hot line too. Twas ever thus – I recall from my teenage days in the 70s that the born agains seemed then the most bigotted and unloving of people. It doesn’t surprise me years later than Vance and Turgon cannot bring themselves to have a smidgeon of respect for the dead that they disagree with.

    If I may adapt an old joke:

    – What do you call a busload of TUV supporters driving off a cliff?

    – A good start.

  • Comrade Stalin

    When I said what i did it was because we have resident groups and other similar groups and their spokespersons are mostly not elected.

    Stephen, that all depends what they are doing. If they’re complaining about bins not being emptied or streets not being swept it doesn’t really matter if they’re elected or not. If they’re presenting themselves as representatives to help the government make informed decisions about where to direct resources (for example) that’s very different.

    Skintown :

    On another note, it is a sad indictment of nationalist blindness that unionists like Turgon will continually be seen as the flip side of violent dissident republicanism, when on the important issue, i.e whether people should be killed or not, his views are about as far from that as you can get.

    What some of us object to is the simple depiction of politics and violence in NI being a matter of two kinds of people – those who actually fired guns or detonated explosives, and those who did not. That’s why I have a great deal of trouble with Turgon’s view that the “terrorists” are all bastards, and that nobody else bears any responsibility for the violence.

    It’s not like the duplicity is anything new. Turgon resorts to whataboutery; he still can’t explain to me why another TUV member felt it appropriate to call for the release of Torrens Knight despite being a member of a political party which claims to have a forthright and unambiguous position when it comes to opposing terrorism. When Jim McDaid was beaten to death in Coleraine, Jim Allister’s website had a statement about what a bad man Martin McGuinness is. It took him about a week to put up a statement condemning a sectarian murder that took place in his own constituency.

    Turning to other places, in Newtownabbey the DUP found it appropriate to place Tommy Kirkham, a man linked to the UDA, to serve as deputy Mayor despite the fact that he is the only loyalist-linked representative in the chamber, and despite the fact that the UDA haven’t disbanded or disarmed. Meanwhile it steadfastly refuses to entertain the notion of electing anyone to that role who is non-Catholic. Back in the 1990s, unionists voted in Hugh Smyth to represent the City of Belfast as Lord Mayor right while loyalists were actively murdering civilians.

    Earlier in the thread I described other historical instances where unionism stood in the background nodding while militant loyalism spread violence, instability, and sectarian death. Instances such as the UWC strike, the 1978 strike, the period around the Anglo Irish Agreement, the point at Drumcree where unionists stood back and said nothing while a tanker was wheeled in front of British soldiers and threats made to spray the army with petrol and set it on fire. Ian Paisley arrived, not to urge the crowd to disperse and be calm, but to turn up the heat, and he did so again in 2005 at the time of the Whiterock riots.

    I find it hilarious on one level, and outrageous on another, to hear Ian Paisley and other unionist leaders talk as, Paisley did, a few years ago about how the dealbreaker was that decent democrats were required to uphold the law and support the police. This is the man who yelled to police officers “don’t come running to me when they burn you out of their homes”; likewise the images of “law abiding” David Trimble negotiating with Billy Wright and wagging his finger at the front line of RUC officers doing their duty.

    It’s frustrating that unionists here on Slugger run away rather than deal with the above points. I suspect that is why a lot of people warmed to David Ervine, and others such as Gary McMichael, Davy Adams, Billy Hutchinson and so on. Instead of trying to lie and bullshit and be two-faced about it they put their hands up and said yes, look, we did these bad things, they were wrong, let’s try to fix them. That’s infinitely preferable to people the people who try to lie about their part, about how they organized rallies and used all kinds of language to urge loyalists to stand up and fight, and then melted away into the background when things became rough.

  • Stephen Blacker

    Comrade Stalin,

    Cant disagree with you on that one.

  • Comrade Stalin,
    I explained the issue of Torrens Knight and indeed have condemned him and the individual who supported him. I have done so on a number of occasions. Hence, telling lies which has always been your wont is demonstrated once again.

    I might ask why your deputy leader helped and supported Dawn Purvis when she was still in the PUP. You denied it at the time (another lie) and when it was proven true have not been able to give an explanation.

    However, despite your repeated lying I do regard you as innocent of the violence of the troubles. I also regard the vast majority of people here as innocent. I am one of them.

    Alternatively Comrade if we were all to blame explain how the likes of a policeman was responsible for his own murder. Or maybe Marie Wilson was responsible for her own death. I suspect you will be unable to say she was but that is the logic of your argument. Your loathsome “Alliance are the only ones with clean hands” is a lie and always has been.

    The reality is that there were vicious murder gangs: they bear responsibility for the crimes of the troubles. If you wish to proclaim that you were guilty by all means do so. Wallow in the self righteousness of your own self appointed guilt by all means. However, no that is not what you do (that might have some semblance of perverse righteousness – though pretty perverse). No you proclaim that you and those whom you regard as innocent alone are righteous. Tell us Comrade who set you up as judge of us all?

    Now run along and tell some more lies about the rest of us.

  • Down South

    Turgon you have bluntly misread CS’s points. I have read all of this thread and was broadly sympathetic with your position but it has come unstuck. Very few in Northern Ireland can call themselves clean in this whole affair. Even if people have moved viewpoints in the meantime, in the heat of what was going on there was oppression, there were garbled words of condemnation or condoning, there was sympathy, inappropriate songs and jokes. It was as if for many years we had to read what wasn’t being said as much as what was being said.

    You wouldn’t believe the ire that was raised in Catholic homes when Ian Paisley went on TV rants, we felt the stirring of sentiment he was effecting across Northern Ireland and we were intimidated by it because we knew there would be people listening to it and becoming harder in their attitudes because of it. he didn’t have to pick up a gun but no one is in any doubt that there was violence in his core. While he had the intellect to not get involved directly he was responsible for raising fools from their pits to go out and act on his words. While he and others spoke those words he and others were directly creating the conditions for acts of violence. This has been unrecognised as yet and must come out before we move on. It’s a sore that is still running and the stronger the denials come the longer it will continue. All communities and sections of society are complicit unless you were out there manning peace marches and actively establishing projects and initiatives that brought people together in peace. I understand many were doing that such as the Quakers – but believe me the majority weren’t.

  • andnowwhat

    Personally, I have a lot of respect for Turgon but I could not disagree with his points here more.

    No harm to you Turgon but when you metioned your perceived support for loyalists in L’derry and Antrim it showed that either you led a sheltered life or you are in denial.

    The activity in those areas is easily supported by a quick net search.

    On a more general point, those of us who lived throught the loyalist (you would say terrorist) lead ulster woprkers strike, have NO doubt about the level of support these guys had.

    Mind you, these guys in masks, the UDA,, escaped proscrip[tion by the British for decade after this.

    As for Ervine, his guru, Spence could see how the wind was blowing (the cliche of the republicans in the library while the loyalists were in the gym) and at some point they decided to try the franchise.

    The difference was that they never really took the guys with the guns with them.