Ex UVF prisoner joins DUP

An interesting press release from the DUP is doing the rounds: Tommy Sandford ex PUP councillor (and ex loyalist prisoner) has joined the DUP. I will reproduce the press release below:

The Democratic Unionist Party has announced today that well known East Belfast community representative Tommy Sandford has joined the Party. Mr Sandford is a spokesman for the Cregagh Community Association and was a PUP Councillor for the Castlereagh Central area between 2001 and 2005.

Speaking today Mr Sandford said, ‘I believe it is vital that unionism has a strategy and vision for the future and that the unionist community can unite behind a strong, united and forward looking party. It is for those reasons that I have joined the Democratic Unionist Party and I look forward to playing an active role within the Party in East Belfast.

I believe that the message being set out by the DUP is one which unionists of all shades can unite behind, and indeed it is a message which resonates beyond just the unionist community to everyone who wishes to see a new and better Northern Ireland. In these difficult economic times it is reassuring to know that there is a party which has as its goal, the development and growth of our economy alongside ensuring that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

Welcoming Mr Sandford, East Belfast Constituency Chairman Lord Browne said, ‘Tommy is a well known figure in East Belfast, and particularly in the Cregagh area where he is active in the local community association. I have no doubt that he will be a great asset to the Democratic Unionist Party in East Belfast and he, like many others who have joined the party in recent times, has responded to the strategy and leadership displayed most obviously by the Party Leader Peter Robinson.

People from all walks of life are responding to the message put forward by the Democratic Unionist Party and we want to see people from all backgrounds playing a full role in bringing about the new Northern Ireland that we all desire.’

This is a suprising development, not really in terms of Mr. Sandford wishing to join the DUP but in the DUP being happy to make a bit of a splash of accepting him. They may calculate that he will bring a few votes with him but it must be remembered that Sandford only held the seat for one term and lost the seat in 2005. As such he brings little political capital to the party.

The ready acceptance of his membership, however, may be more of a turn off for the liberal Alliance typed voters who helped defeat Peter Robinson at the Westminster election. In addition accepting an ex UVF prisoner will probably play poorly in many areas outside Belfast especially the rural areas west of the Bann where the UUP with their shiny new non dinosaur leader will hope to make gains.

Tom Elliott made a good speech at his party conference (not as good as Robinson but far from poor). This defection to the DUP and that speech do not alone make the situation rosy for the UUP. However, after several weeks of bad news stories for the UUP they may be beginning to get a run of better luck.

Accepting Mr. Sandford especially with any fanfare (albeit minor) may be a decision the DUP will later regret.

  • Anythin from Jimbo on this I wonder? I doubt this will have any significant impact on the DUP one way or the other, but it does give other parties some extra ammo.

  • Mark

    I think it shows that the DUP are following the Sinn fein model . If you can’t be beat them at least try and be them . It’s better to have community workers working with you rather than against you . They bring a certain experience to the table . DUP always seemed to me to be more streetwise than UUP ( I mean sean o’ callaghan ffs ) . It’s a progressive move and one that will reap rewards in years to come . Community workers are the new community workers .

  • Rocketeer

    I would imagine that this defection to the Democratic Unionist Party will be welcomed by traditional supporters of the Progressive Unionist Party and others within the loyalist community insomuch that it demonstrates that the DUP is also listening to the loyalist community, which many people in East Belfast feel has been effectively abandoned by mainstream Unionism. As such, this defection could quite possibly pay off for the DUP, and is demonstrative of the evolving nature of the party. I have very little time for Tommy Sandford but I have already asked some friends in East Belfast, who are non-DUP voters and they believe that the appointment should go down well within the working class loyalist community because it shows that they are not being ignored. Now, irrespective of Tommy Sandford, I think that the DUP would be far more suited in trying to tempt Dawn Purvis to join the party. Purvis has publicly stated that she is heartened by the positive tunes coming out from DUP and Peter Robinson in recent months and perhaps her joining the DUP in the near future is not too beyond the realm of possibility. It is therefore unfortunate that the DUP is blocking her double jobbing bill, but if she were to join the DUP it would be a major coup.

  • Carson’s Cat

    Turgon,
    “the liberal Alliance typed voters who helped defeat Peter Robinson at the Westminster election”

    Oddly enough, liberal Alliance types are already voting for, shock horror, the Alliance party. However, there was certainly talk that a section of the loyalist vote swung behind Long at the General Election – supposedly because of some agreement between Purvis & Long.

    On that basis, the DUP showing that it is connecting/reconnecting with loyalist working class areas isn’t a bad thing as the DUP isn’t likely to be in that much direct competition for the Alliance core vote just yet.

    Y

  • Turgon

    Carson’s Cat,
    I agree up to a point and indeed this may be a good move in East Belfast.

    I suspect that some loyalist support did go to Long. In addition quite a large number of working class unionists went to Long (there is a difference). The Dee Street ballot box was apparently very solidly for her. However, those working class unionists vote PUP in absolutely tiny numbers. For your thesis to work, you have to assume that many non PUP voting (and indeed non voting) working class unionists will be persuaded by this move. One might equally argue that they will be turned off by the DUP gaining a loyalist as they (the working class unioniosts) have been the major victims of loyalist terrorists.

    Moving on to middle class Alliance types, Robinson’s speech at the conference was genuninely brilliant. (I will eventually get round to a blog on it). However, that was a speech targeted at the middle ground Alliance-ish type and this move may well be a bad one for that segment of the electorate.

    Then we have the effect of Sandford’s joining on the rural areas. It will not have that much effect but in so much as it does, it is unlikely to be welcomed in most of the DUP heartlands: opposition to all forms of paramilitaries runs pretty deep out there.

    Accepting any defector is always a double edged sword: it will alienate as well as gain supporters.

    In this case I would submit that especially with the mild fanfare it is a case of helping the situation in East Belfast (and hopefully damaging Naomi Long and the Alliance Party: believe me that would delight me). However, I think it is a high risk tactic in East Belfast and simply a bad one in the context of the rest of NI. Leaving aside any personal views I may have about loyalists I suggest that this was too high risk a plan to accept.

    Incidentally I have not heard from you in ages: I am delighted to see you back. I believe I got a mention (only in passing and not from the platform) at the blogging for unionism seminar at the DUP conference: I am flattered. Do drop me an email some time

    Regards

  • “…and hopefully damaging Naomi Long and the Alliance Party: believe me that would delight me…”

    How come? (just out of simple curiosity)

  • Carson’s Cat

    Turgon,
    I didn’t say that one person joining the DUP was likely to be the salvation to whatever problems there may or may not be – but that it could be seen as an indication of reconnecting with those areas.

    One people’s views of his convictions – I suspect people are willing to allow someone the opportunity to prove they have moved on from their past. The outworking of your argument is that anyone who ever got involved in paramilitaries are effectively exiled from any role in public life forever – unless I suppose they pass whatever test Jim Allister puts forward.

    Lets be honest, if the broad swathe of unionists have accepted to some degree that SF can be in Government then I suspect they won’t froth at the mouth if a former UVF member wants to join the DUP and “move Northern Ireland forward”. I accept you don’t like that unionists have broadly voted to support the current arrangements but even if you don’t support them I assume you agree that the last election results do show that.

    Which leads me to Robinson’s speech – which was about looking forward and not just to the past – which you seem to be more concerned with. Obsessing with a past which he seems to want to move away from instead of looking to the reasons why he wants to join with Robinson now.

    My reading of his speech was that it was targetted at the real “middle ground” and not to the majority of Alliance voters, who whilst they may describe themselves as “centre ground” in my experience aren’t actually in that place at all but simply because they vote Alliance have appointed themselves as the middle-ground.

    His speech was targetted at a big swathe of people who would describe themselves as unionists but who want to see some vision and strategy for the future. That doesn’t mean you forget about the past, but try to do something other than obsess about it.

    This type of person joining the DUP actually is another aspect of what Robinson talked about in his speech. When he talked about wanting to extend the DUP’s reach across all strands of unionism then – again shock horror – it turned out that he meant it.

    I really think you’re making a bit more out of the whole story than it deserves – even the fact that you describe the “publicity” as a fanfare, mild or otherwise it pushing it more than a little. They’ve put out a press release and a picture but I don’t think many front pages will be held for it – despite what some of the sluggertariat huddled around a few keyboards might want to think.

    I didn’t know you’d got a mention at the DUP conference – seems you’re more relevant then than Tom Elliott – he got ignored completely 😉

  • Rocketeer

    I would actually agree with Carson’s Cat in relation to the view that the defection of Tommy Sandford, a popular loyalist community worker in East Belfast, may be of benefit to the Democratic Unionist Party insomuch that it demonstrates that Peter Robinson is endeavouring to reconnect with the loyalist working class electorate in East Belfast. One of the major criticisms of Peter Robinson following the loss of his Westminster seat in May amongst the East Belfast electorate was that he had ‘lost touch’ with the working class people of the area and many within the loyalist community in particular felt that he had moved beyond the loyalist working class people within the constituency and that he had neglected their views. The criticism was clearly heard by Peter Robinson and obviously this appointment could be viewed as quite symbolic in the sense that the DUP has not only heard but moreover, listened to the loyalist electorate and is now taking into account the views of this important group. I actually think that the defection will be advantageous for the DUP and Peter Robinson because there is an evident disconnect between many within the loyalist working class community in East Belfast and mainstream Unionism: these people want their views to be taken into consideration and they want to know that their social and political aspirations are important to those at the highest end of the political spectrum in Northern Ireland. There are many disaffected working class loyalist voters in Northern Ireland, and by demonstrating that the DUP is re-connecting with the loyalist working class people of East Belfast and effectively telling those people that the party is prepared to listen to, and act upon their views which have been habitually ignored by the larger parties, valuable votes can be won for the party in the area. I sense that Mr Robinson, who admitted that the re-claiming of the East Belfast Westminster seat is of significant importance to the Party, is already laying in motion a strategy to re-entice former voters, of whom may have been disaffected by the apparent disconnection between the DUP and the people of the constituency, back into the arms of a welcoming DUP.

  • CC: “…you [Turgon] describe the “publicity” as a fanfare, mild or otherwise it pushing it more than a little…”

    To be fair, rarely does a new recruit get any sort of press release.

  • Framer

    What did he do?

  • Turgon

    Carson’s Cat,
    Thanks for that. I would agree that it is not a big deal but it gave me something to do this lunch time. In so much as it matters, however, I think it is a decision based on obsessing about East Belfast. If (and I agree it is a pretty big if) the DUP start to have problems I would suggest that despite the loss of East Belfast the main focus of such problems will be outside Belfast.

    Incidentally I think you have a tight rope to walk in the new confident reaching out to everyone DUP; ensuring that it does not look arrogant. It is one of the hazards of being the main party and also a hazard of being a pretty tightly disciplined party: better some discipline than too little that said.

    mehawind,
    I would be delighted if the DUP could damage Long and Alliance in East Belfast (and elsewhere). I know David Vance for example takes a different view but I am of the opinion that it is always better that unionists do well and win than non unionists. Hence, despite my disagreements with the DUP I would vote for them a dozen times rather than Alliance once. Sadly I am nolonger able to vote multiple times: the assorted deceased relatives are now too long dead.

  • Rocketeer

    Mehawind:

    “To be fair, rarely does a new recruit get any sort of press release”.

    I think that most political parties publish similar material when new members join, for example Sinn Fein is particularly adept at publicising new membership within the local media.

  • Rocketeer

    Here is an article from the Belfast Newsletter concerning Tommy Sandford and his reasons for leaving the Progressive Unionist Party this year:

    Ex-prisoner leaves PUP over UVF link

    18 August, 2010

    FORMER UVF associate of Gusty Spence and David Ervine has left the Progressive Unionist Party over its link with the paramilitary group, the News Letter can reveal.
    Despite attempts at damage limitation in the aftermath of former leader Dawn Purvis’s resignation, deputy chairman Tommy Sandford handed in his resignation at a meeting of the party’s executive in Belfast on Monday evening.

    He told the News Letter that the party’s continuing links with paramilitaries was a “major factor” in his decision.

    Coming in the wake of Ms Purvis’s announcement in June, in response to the UVF killing of Bobby Moffatt on the Shankill Road, the resignation of Mr Sandford will be viewed as a further blow to the already-struggling party’s chances of surviving as a meaningful entity beyond its party conference in October.

    Speaking to the News Letter following his decision, the ex-loyalist prisoner said he intended to stand in the next council elections as an independent.

    “I took this decision because I feel that I can only take the policies and principles of David Ervine to the people as an independent.

    “The party has accepted my resignation with effect from the day after the conference on October 16. Paramilitaries have to have a voice and someone has to speak for them, but I feel I can best serve my local community in the Cregagh area by working separately from the PUP.”

    Mr Sandford joined the left-wing unionist party over a decade ago and was the party’s first member to be elected to Castlereagh council.

    He is an active community worker in the Cregagh estate and surrounding areas who served time in Long Kesh alongside UVF leader Gusty Spence.

    “I put my heart and soul into the PUP and can remember when Gusty Spence first talked about forming a political party way back in the 70s. It’s not easy to walk away but I think it’s for the best.

    “I didn’t take this decision lightly and I know people will assume that I’m looking at some kind of a link-up with Dawn Purvis but that’s not what this is about.

    “Some people are bound to be angered by my decision, especially because of my background, but it’s my choice and I will stand as an independent and continue to work for the people of the area as best as I can.

    “Despite what some people will think, I don’t forget where I come from but I certainly know where I’m going.”

    The PUP party conference is due to be held in Belfast on October 16.

    Councillor John Kyle, an east Belfast GP who has no past involvement with paramilitaries, has agreed to remain as interim party leader until the conference when all executive positions will be vacated pending a full-party vote.

  • Rocketeer,

    I would say that is only the case when the new recuits holds a council seat or other public representation. Meh, maybe I’m wrong.

  • Turgon: “…but I am of the opinion that it is always better that unionists do well and win than non unionists. Hence, despite my disagreements with the DUP I would vote for them a dozen times rather than Alliance once….”

    Does this stretch to all shades of Unionism – i.e. your preferences would go UUP, DUP, TUV, Ind.Unionists or PUP before anyone else? Again, just curious.

  • Rocketeer

    Mehawind:

    I do not think that you are wrong, and you have certainly made a valid point in regards to the level of publicity generated for new members and those of whom are co-opted or positioned by the party to gain a seat in either local or national government. I guess that the publicly generated by the DUP for Tommy Sandford is quite significant in the sense that it is indicative of Peter Robinson’s desire to publicly demonstrate that the DUP is willing to listen and ‘reconnect’ with the disaffected working class loyalist electorate in East Belfast. It is interesting that during the Westminster campaign, Naomi Long raised the issue of the loyalist working class people of East Belfast and claimed that their social aspirations were being ignored by the larger parties, and that she was interested in advancing their social prosperity. Clearly, Robinson knows that the way back for the DUP in East Belfast is through reconnecting the party with the grassroots in the constituency. It could be a smart move.

  • Rocketeer

    I agree with that last post. That’s why I would judge this as a bit of a fanfare in comparison to other new recruits.

  • UUP Supporter

    It looks like UPRG / Independent Unionist Frank McCoubrey will be standing for the UUP in the Shankill. Frank is a well liked, hard working Councillor who will be a solid asset to the UUP in the working class West Belfast PUL communities.

  • 2 frys 2 teas

    ‘Then we have the effect of Sandford’s joining on the rural areas’

    Im a rural DUP member

    I welcome Mr Sandford’s decision to get involved with the DUP. He is a community worker – so that obviously is important when a party wishes to connect more with ‘the community’.

    He will be a useful person if we are serious (and i think we are) not just our politcial but our social responsiblities – a good ‘catch’ at the right time in my ruralistic opinion.

    As PR said – a party that has learned lessons and is listening…

  • mehawind,
    “Does this stretch to all shades of Unionism – i.e. your preferences would go UUP, DUP, TUV, Ind.Unionists or PUP before anyone else? Again, just curious.”

    I will answer in the spirit asked:

    It does with the exception of the PUP. I would tend to vote for all unionist parties standing (except PUP / UDP) then Alliance then SDLP. If the Greens were standing I guess they would come either before or after Alliance. Essentially everyone gets a preference from me apart from Sinn Fein and the PUP.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    An utterly wretched development (ditto McCoubrey) – if Unionism wants to know why it fails to connect with the rest of the country in a better way, it’s precisely because of the absence of a ‘No Tolerance’ policy for people like Sandford and McCoubrey.

    One of the stupidest pieces of cant Trimble ever had written for him was when he mumbled, ‘just because you have a past doesn’t mean you can’t have a future’. The past of Sandford and McCoubrey ought entirely to determine the present and future they have. And that’s one where democratic, constitutional parties shouldn’t touch the likes of them with a proverbial bargepole.

  • John East Belfast

    Someone should ask the DUP if their party now includes in its beliefs that in the period 1969 to 1994 so called loyalist paramilitaries were justified in breaking the law and committing acts of murder, robbery and extortion.

    On the assumption that I assume anyone who shares the beliefs of the DUP is welcome to join their Party.

    Unless I have missed it I have never heard Tommy Sandford say the acts of the UVF were wrong ?

    That would be my view on Frank McCoubrey as well in the UUP

  • Laughing Tory Unionist and John East Belfast,

    I agree entirely.

    I suppose if Sandford very publicly stated that he was personally sorry for his own wrong doing.

    That there had never been and never was, nor would be any justification whatsoever for any of his involvement with the UVF.

    That there had never been any justification for the loyalist terrorist organisations existing.

    Then after all that it might be reasonable for him to get involved in politics with a party. However, as John points out there no evidence of that and as such Sandford should be treated as a political pariah as he has made himself such.

  • JAH

    Oh dear.

    Turgon et al play the old saw that the past alone can determine your future. Whatever happened to redemption? We have all made mistakes in our past, but to say no one can ever learn from them and move on, is to condemn everyone to be benighted by their actions as a youth. I would far rather listen to a man with a past he’s rejected that someone with no past or experience at all.

    I don’t know Sandford but I do know many ex-Maze residents who have gone on to lead full lives and in turn enrich their communities. They are not proud of their pasts but have had to come to terms with it and try and prevent other young people following the same route.

    A further sign that the DUP is totally eclipsing other unionist brands.

  • John East Belfast

    JAH

    You are mis – understanding Unionist Pro Agreement mindset and also unionist Anti- Agreement.

    What Turgon and I have in common is we both agree that political murder in NI was wrong – we would be both opposed to an Amnesty for instance.

    Although I wouldnt speak for him my understanding of where we diverged was that I would have been of the view that there were people involved in crime that had it not been for the Troubles they would not have been. Therefore on the understanding that they ceased from those activities and there was a permanent cease fire from the groups to which they belonged then I swallowed hard and agreed to prisoner releases.
    Then because voters gave SF a mandate we held our noses and did political business with SF.

    We didnt enjoy any of this – contrast the UUP/Trimble unease with Paisley’s Chuckle Brother routine. It was pure pragmatism.

    However the Anti Agreement mindset (that has remained true to its principals) would not accept this as the individuals concerned were un repentant murderers.

    I would agree about the unrepentant murder and hence would draw the line at welcoming into a democratic political party anyone who thinks political murder in NI was justified.

    That brings me to the DUP – what do they believe in all this ?
    If they think that political murder was justified – with the passage of time – then this makes their Good Friday Flip Flop a kind of Cirque de Soleil triple summersault.

    In otherwords do the DUP actually have any principals now or will they do anything to scrape votes from wherever they can ?

  • Turgon

    JAH,
    “I don’t know Sandford but I do know many ex-Maze residents who have gone on to lead full lives and in turn enrich their communities.”

    Yes a pity that because of their past lives many people in all communities here have no lives and others are disabled.

    As I stated above I do believe in redemption both in the religious sense and in the political sense. However, I await Sandford accepting the utter wrongness of his previous associations and actions and the complete inappropriateness, immorality and wrongness of everything the UVF did and indeed their very existence during the troubles. After that he might have shown remorse and repentance which are prerequisites to redemption.

    So far we have seen absolutely no rejection of Sandford’s past. Such a rejection should have been his first act as a DUP member.

  • Rocketeer

    David Trimble: ‘Just because somebody has a past doesn’t mean they can’t have a future’.

  • John East Belfast

    Rocketeer

    The issue is if he supported “political murder” and still believes it was justified and under the same set of circumstances could and should be repeated – then he shouldnt have a political future within a political party that rejects such a view

  • Rocketeer

    John East Belfast:

    I can entirely understand your position.

    I thought that Tommy Sandford had left the PUP because of its continued link with the UVF, an organisation I believe he said had no role to play in the future of Northern Irish politics (?) Also, you can correct me if I am wrong but I had thought that Sandford was closely associated with the political philosophy of David Ervine and that he had endorsed Gusty Spence’s ceasefire statement?

    “In all sincerity, we offer to the loved ones of all innocent victims over the past 25 years abject and true remorse – Let us firmly resolve to respect our differing views of freedom, culture and aspiration and never again permit our political circumstances to degenerate into bloody warfare.”

  • Unionist(non aligned)

    Turgon
    “by their fruits you shall know them” Didn’t Sandford leave the PUP because of the paramilitary link?

    JEB,
    I believe from other coments you have posted on this website that you are a pro GFA unionist who supports the UUP. The GFA freed scores of “political murderers” from priosn and Reg Empey (negotiator of GFA) sought political alliance with the PUP whilst leader of the UUP. Sandford has resigned from the PUP.

  • Turgon

    Rocketeer,
    I am in no way attacking you but Spence in the following: The problem with that remark from Spence is its utter hypocrisy.

    This is the man who was convicted of a murder of a totally innocent barman in 1966, long before the IRA campaign started: his only crime was to be a Catholic, To be released from a life sentence one has to accept one’s guilt. Yet Spence always denied (and to my knowledge continues to deny) his involvement in that murder.

    Secondly Spence offered remorse to the innocent victims. We know from Ervine’s remarks in Voices from the Grave that he (Ervine) regarded the murdered of Dundalk and Dublin as essentially having it coming to them. That implies that some (like Ervine) regarded these clearly completely innocent victims as guilty.

    Furthermore all the UVF’s victims were murdered. The UVF seem to see some as innocent. However, although the UVF will not admit it even when the UVF managed to murder an IRA member that person was still innocent. There is no death penalty in this country; the UVF were appointed as judge, jury and executioner by no one and when they went out to kill people they could by no stretch of the imagination be described as acting in legitimate self defence or conducting a lawful act.

    Hence, for the UVF to describe some of their victims as innocent means that they must regard some as “guilty” which as I stated above is a perverse nonsense.

    The UVF and PUP would have to come out and state that not one of the crimes the UVF and the rest of the alphabet soup committed from Spence and cos murders up to the present day had any justification; that all were utterly and completely morally wrong. Furthermore the UVF and their assorted political mouthpieces should give closure to the victims by admitting what they know about the murders. then they should genuinely decommission. It might help if they did not continue to collude in the disappearance of Lisa Dorian. Oddly that murder despite Ms. Dorian being a Catholic is ignored as a sectarian act: along of course with all the other UVF murders.

    As an aside it is interesting that the ex-UVF mouthpiece in chief who is Dawn Purvis left over the murder of Bobby Moffett but seemed disinterested by the murder of Lisa Dorian. The fact that the murder was almost certainly committed by a UVF member was conveniently ignored by the staunch defender of working class people and supporter of women’s rights.

    If the UVF did all the above then maybe we could take their bone fides seriously. The fact that my suggestion is laughable shows how laughable the UVF’s apology was. Laughable that is except that it is a gross and perverse insult to all their victims be they dead, disabled or had their lives ruined

  • anonymous

    Interesting that the mainstream unionists are uncomfortable with this fellow’s past but nationalists don’t seem to care enough to comment.

    Remembering that Robinson and even Ian Sr. each have a little past paramilitary involvement (though admittedly not nearly as much as Sandford), the DUP couldn’t claim to be snow white here if it wanted to.

    Why does it matter whether Sandford regrets his past? We should make it easy, not hard for people like him, on both sides, to take a more positive role in the future than they did in the past. Isn’t the test whether he is committed to peaceful and democratic politics going forward? Else the fact that there was a war in the past guarantees that there will always be one in the future.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatfield-Mccoy_Feud

  • Turgon

    anonymous,
    No I think the test is are there circumstances in which he would go back to his past? If he does not recognise what he did in the past and what his organisation did as utterly wrong and unjustifiable then there is a danger he will go back or encourage others to follow a similar route in order to gain political power and influence.

    In addition the sheer awfulness of the UVF’s crimes mean that if Sandford cannot identify them as utterly immoral and wrong that tells us something about his moral compass . Then the question is do we want people with that perverted a moral compass as our political representatives? In my case my answer is no.

  • Reader

    anonymous: Why does it matter whether Sandford regrets his past? We should make it easy, not hard for people like him, on both sides, to take a more positive role in the future than they did in the past. Isn’t the test whether he is committed to peaceful and democratic politics going forward?
    If he hasn’t wholly rejected his paramilitary past, then any positive contribution now is conditional and unreliable. Perhaps he can be useful, but he surely can’t be trusted. A year down the line if things go bad again, he could be advocating a few sectarian killings as a useful tactical option.
    I’m not sure he should be refused entry to a political party, but a stern warning would be a more suitable welcome than the fatted calf.

  • John East Belfast

    anonymous

    “Why does it matter whether Sandford regrets his past? We should make it easy, not hard for people like him, on both sides, to take a more positive role in the future than they did in the past. Isn’t the test whether he is committed to peaceful and democratic politics going forward?”

    The issue is can a belief that political murder was justified be compatible within a democratic political party ?
    I would say no.

    I base my views on the PUP from having spoken to them at East Belfast polling stations over the years. Basically they believe that the loyalist community were under attack from republicans and they were right to take up arms – they would do so again if necessary.

    For the more sinister within the loyalist community they believe it was loyalist paramilitaries that brought PIRA to the negotiating table. Basically they made the price to be paid within the Catholic community for PIRA violence so high it was no longer sustainable.
    ie the murder of Catholics was not just sectarian hatred but a thought out strategy.

    Therefore when paramilitaries say they regret death they are simply saying they are not psycopaths and werent killing for the sake of it, That is not the same as saying murder was wrong.

    Wy does this matter ?

    I think it is important that for the sake of our future it is important not to justify paramiltary crime from the past.

    We wont reach agreement on that of course – which in my opinion is fine – our “Troubles” generation will go to its grave with this difference of opinion but from my point of view it is important that generally accepted principals of the State are the primacy of the rule of law and that political murder was unjustifiable.
    I dont expect SF supporters to agree to that, nor the PUP – but I would have expected the DUP to.

    This is why I am against amnesties and Truth Commissions etc.

    What amazes me is that the DUP caused 5 years of turmoil here – and especially among unionism – because of unrepentant terrorists in Govt – Now 5 years later they are inviting them into their Party – what is that all about ?

    I would be interested on the DUP supporters on here giving their view – what about Nelson McCausland who commented on Slugger last week about the Culture thread – what does he think of a former UVF member in his Party ?

    Of course Tommy Sandford could be a totally repentant character who now rejects and regrets political murder – he just hasnt said that yet

  • anonymous

    Turgon and Reader, you are setting the bar too high for NI. If every NI politician who had ever been in a paramilitary had to make a public supplication in order to be allowed to participate in democratic politics, there would be a very long wait at the registry.

    On the risk of people like Sandford returning to violence in some future circumstances, I think we are already committed to accepting that risk. First, as you’ve been reminded recently on another thread, from over on this side past service in the British Army or RUC does not appear very different from membership in the UVF, but I’ll let that point go there. More to the point, most of us of all political stripes can imagine some plausible circumstances in which we would engage in political violence. The more securely ex-paramilitaries can be brought into the political process, the less likely those circumstances are to occur.

    If it seems to be true that this man left the PUP because he doesn’t want to have anything more to do with the UVF, that sounds to me like the moment to bring him in.

  • Truth & Justice

    Has anyone heard that Cedric Wilson has left the TUV, looking for some confirmation?

  • Framer

    So what did he do?

  • 2 frys 2 teas

    “it is a message which resonates beyond just the unionist community to everyone who wishes to see a new and better Northern Ireland.”

    Hardly the language of a man wanting to revert to the past…

    I mean can no one lift the phone and ask the man the question? All this jibber jabber……

  • Carson’s Cat

    JEB
    “What amazes me is that the DUP caused 5 years of turmoil here – and especially among unionism – because of unrepentant terrorists in Govt – Now 5 years later they are inviting them into their Party – what is that all about ?”

    I must have missed the point where you were appointed as the chief judge of everyone’s personal views. When did it happen?

    The evidence we have is that this bloke left the PUP because they continued to be linked to the UVF. He may have justified violence in the past, but the DUP have been clear about their views on that and we have to presume, until there is a shred of evidence to prove otherwise, that he has moved to fit with the DUP’s views rather than the other way round.

    Now, since we’re talking about “unrepentant terrorists” its not as if the DUP have tried to do some sort of corporate deal with the PUP or anything – after all, that would be effectively getting into bed with the UVF.

    Oh wait, that was the Ulster Unionist Party, *your* party of choice who tried that one. Didn’t hear too many complaints from Tom Elliott about that one. No doubt you were terribly annoyed by it and felt that all the decent people didn’t like it, but it appears not to have diminished your craven support for the UUP come what may – no matter how often they prove that they will do *anything* in an attempt to crawl their way back to having some level of popular support.

    “Of course Tommy Sandford could be a totally repentant character who now rejects and regrets political murder – he just hasnt said that yet”

    And that’s exactly the point – but in the meantime you’re quite happy to make all levels of assumption based on nothing other than your own prejudices. As 2 frys 2 teas has just pointed out – the words in the man’s own statement don’t sound like someone who’s harking back to the past….

    For all your sound and fury about the darker underbelly of loyalism – let us not forget who David Trimble had as his partners of choice when he was walking into the talks back in the mid 90s……..

    Let us not forget that the Sunday papers were able to tell us that members of the UDA were ’employed’ in North Belfast to erect Jim Nicholson’s election posters.

    And let us not forget once again that before the UUP went chasing Dave and his Bullingdon Club mates as potential partners, the UUP were more than happy that the UVF could be the Ulster Unionist “franchise” because they thought there were a few votes in it.

  • John East Belfast

    Carson’s Cat

    It isn’t about me.

    I am simply enquiring what the latest DUP policy is on “unrepentant terrorists” – which was their terminology ?

    We know they moved on having them in Govt but do they now believe it is ok to have them in their Party ?

    It is a pretty simple question and the lack of answer to which is telling but not to be unexpected in my opinion

  • 2 frys 2 teas

    “I would be interested on the DUP supporters on here giving their view”

    i don’t really think you are all that interested tbh

  • Carson’s Cat

    John,
    And its a very simple question to ask where is your proof that he is “unrepentant”?

    And whilst it may not be about you per se, your support for the UUP is entirely relevant given their past. Where was the repentance from the UVF when the UUP were attempting to get into bed with them?

    An individual has joined a party and therefore would be expected to support their policies and principles. You yourself have stated that the DUP has been clear about loyalist terrorism and the only evidence you’ve provided that it might have changed is that Tommy Sandford has joined the DUP.

    My argument is that it is far far more likely that Mr Sandford has moved to fit with the DUP’s views, than the DUP having moved to fit with whatever Mr Sandford may have espoused in the past.

    On the other hand, the breathtaking hypocrisy of the UUP has plenty of evidence to back it up and you are more than happy to continue to cravenly support them – thus placing a degree of that hypocrisy onto yourself.

  • John East Belfast

    Carson’s Cat

    I am not stating he is unrepentant now I am asking it – I know for sure he once wasnt – therefore when has he changed his mind.

    I just find it odd that in the statement he made on joining the DUP he didnt add that the UVF were enagaged in crime and he now denies its legitimacy to have ever done so.

    It is one thing to have moved on – but that is not the same as turning away.

    I personally think this is important – the DUP is a political party that believes in democracy and the rule of law – I think anyone who cant agree that is as real now as it was anytime in the last 40 years would have serious membership issues in my opinion.

    I am just seeking clarification.

    As for the UUP’s dalliance with the PUP that was a mistake and I condemned both within and without the Party – indeed on Slugger. infact it is the only time I have publicly disassociated myself from Party policy or actions as I dont think party members should criticise their own party or its leaders, in public, unless it is a question of conscience.