Healing Through Remembering (new chair Dawn Purvis) refused PEACE III Funding

When Dawn Purvis was defeated at the Stormont elections, a number of commentators on slugger including myself predicted that she would end up with a job in the quango / do-gooder industry. Indeed I suggested that far from helping those whom she claimed to represent (working class unionists in East Belfast) her time especially since she left the PUP had been more directed towards increasing her profile amongst what are sometimes known as the liberal dissidents. Many members of the quasi voluntary sector and quangocrats along with assorted media-luvvies had always seemed keen on Purvis, representing as she claimed, a supposedly left wing working class soft unionism, with the added excitement for the middle classes of association with the “rough boys” (actually criminal thugs) of the UVF. Purvis seemed a sort of Eliza Doolittle figure to those sorts of people. The fact that she had remarkably little popularity amongst those whom she claimed to represent and was pretty transfer repellent to middle class East Belfast unionism almost made her more exciting – a prophet without honour etc.

As such it was really only a matter of time before Purvis obtained some sort of role amongst the liberal dissidents: after all such sycophancy to them could hardly go unrewarded especially when almost every other politician even Alliance these days ignores them.

It was therefore little surprise that Purvis was appointed Chair of Healing Through Remembering (interestingly one cannot comment on this news item on their website). The issue of any organisation with such a name and such proclaimed aims appointing Purvis needs to be noted and questioned. Some on this website have suggested that my recurrent posting of the theme of Purvis is monotonous, even tedious, which I accept is true. However, no one has ever produced any real explanation for regarding the former mouth piece in chief of loyalist murderers as somehow someone worthy of running a supposedly cross community organisation devoted to victims and such like.

To go over the charges against Purvis yet again. Dawn Purvis joined the PUP in 1994. It is unclear whether this was before or after the episode when the UVF entered the Heights Bar in Loughinisland and murdered six people watching a Republic of Ireland football match. Purvis has never enlightened us as to whether or not that was the spur to her joining: maybe she cannot remember. There are also a number of things which the now Chair of Healing Through Remembering seems unable or unwilling to remember. Although sadly not available online after her election as an MLA, Purvis claimed that prior to joining the PUP she did not know who the UVF were. This from a woman born in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s and who, hence, grew up during the Troubles. Indeed in an Irish Times profile quoted on her own website she claimed that when she was first asked to join the party “My first reaction was ‘clear off or Mummy will kill me’” – this due to the PUP’s link to the UVF. It seems that the new chair of Healing Through Remembering has forgotten at something between those two sets of claims.

Purvis remained in the PUP for a large number of murders by their other halves in the UVF / Red Hand Commando:

1994 26 2003 1
1995 1 2004 2
1996 4 2005 4
1997 4 2006 0
1998 4 2007 0
1999 1 2008 0
2000 6 2009 0
2001 1 2010 1
2002 1

It seems that the new chair of Healing Through Remembering has conveniently forgotten the litany of murders committed by the UVF during her membership of the PUP. The above list is not exhaustive and a number of the people killed by “unknown” groups are very likely to have been victims of the UVF. It certainly leaves out the murder of Lisa Dorian, murdered and secretly buried almost certainly by a member of the UVF (along with one from the LVF). Furthermore Purvis seemes to have forgotten the drug dealing, prostitution rackets (particularly ironic for a supposed champion of women and children’s rights) protection rackets and generalised criminality which the UVF visited on mainly working class unionists during her membership of the PUP. The only time she seemed to comment on such things was when she as prominent in demanding more Danegeld for the terrorists.

Purvis also had as mentor David Ervine: the man who is lauded for opposing sectarianism etc. This the man who was arrested with a bomb which had been intended to murder innocent Catholics for the simple reason that they were Catholics. The man who also told people on television interviews that he had not forgotten how to make bombs; who refused ever to talk about his past activities in the UVF even in a book to be published after his death: Voices from the Grave. In that book, however, he talked with absolutely no remorse nor regret about the murders of Catholics such as in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Yet this is what Purvis has to say about Ervine: “He was such a gentleman. David Ervine was bigger than anything I ever knew. He was a key to the peace process in a way that I don’t think people recognise. He loved his wife to bits, and he was a great friend, extremely loyal, would have done anything for you.” Once again Purvis’s memory seems somewhat selective.

On her other mentor Gusty Spence she also seems to have what might be described as a selective memory. Spence was one of the first murderers of the current Troubles: he murdered a Catholic barman (Peter Ward) in a purely sectarian attack. That was in 1966 long before the most recent IRA campaign had killed anyone. However, despite that she said of Spence: “Gusty is so wise.” Her friend Gusty of course must have accepted his guilt: that is a prerequisite of being released as a life sentence prisoner. However, he is now claiming he did not commit the murder. Clearly Spence has forgotten something (or of course is lying). Purvis seems to have forgotten or ignored her hero Spence’s selective memory.

Possibly the single greatest example of Purvis’s hypocrisy in becoming Chair of Healing Through Remembering is that she was the leader of a protest when the convicted double child murderer Billy Hutchinson was arrested regarding withholding evidence over the murder of Catholic teenager Thomas Devlin. The fact that she is willing to proclaim herself a champion for women and children’s rights; has become the chairperson of an organisation called Healing Through Remembering yet was willing publicly to oppose the investigation into a horrific murder speaks volumes. That Healing Through Remembering was willing to appoint her in spite of that and all the other issues shows a particularly selective memory on their part.

One ray of hope in this is that since its appointment of Purvis things have been going a little less well for Healing Through Remembering. On the company’s website they relate that yesterday (12th August 2011) they were turned down for some Peace III funding. Although the liberal dissidents may love to love Purvis it is just possible that someday the gravy train will stop.