Billy Hutchinson is the new Progressive Unionist Party leader

Billy Hutchinson was the only nomination for leadership and was elected unopposed at this morning’s Progressive Unionist Party conference held in East Belfast.

You can watch his first interview as leader and hear his comments on what the PUP stand for, where the party is going and whether the PUP has the energy to go forward. Hutchinson spoke of the continued need to challenge criminality, repeating his mantra:

You can’t be a criminal and a loyalist at the same time.

I also asked him how he thought people in groups who had caused misery and death in communities would now be able to contribute positively through the ACT (Actions for Community Transformation) initiative that is working towards the civilianisation of the IVF and Red Hand Commando. (Around 1440 people have so far signed up to participate in ACT.)

Hutchinson also spoke about the party’s need to reflect and engage with itself.

We need to back and reflect. We’re not saying the party was wrong. We’re not saying the party is lost. The rudder has been broken in this party and what we’re now doing is fixing the rudder. But my challenge is that I’m not the only hand on the rudder. Other people’s hands have to be on it with me.

I’ll post a bit more detail about the conference this evening, along with audio from the various speeches (outgoing leader Hugh Smyth, John Kyle, Billy Hutchinson) and presentations (Prof Tony Novosel, University of Pittsburgh and William Mitchell, ACT).

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  • Nunoftheabove

    “Ex-combatants” ?

    Typically, four men go a domestic household, one sledgehammers the door, two shoot an unarmed civilian man dead in his bed with his wife and the getaway man keeps the car revving. They drive home, burn their clothes, have a large bacardi and coke and away to their beds, elated.

    So…..when did the alleged combat take place and with who exactly ? How often ?

  • ThomasMourne

    Can a progressive Unionist be a member of the Democratic Unionist Party?
    Can a democrat be a member of the Ulster Unionist Party?
    Can an Ulsterman be a member of the Progressive Unionist Party?
    Can a young buck be a member of Traditional Unionist Voice?

    too confusing!

  • Turgon

    Hutchinson seems to have grave difficult moving beyond the “peace process” and into articulating the needs of the working class unionist community. He seems stuck with the supporters / hangers / members on of the UVF.

    The party’s complete failure under any of its leaders to articulate a working class unionism fully divorced from the paramilitaries is the main reason for its utter failure. Hutchinson is in that regard simply an example of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. He personally is extraordinarily unlikely to manage to present a coherent non paramilitary related political grouping which can attract significant support.

  • quality


    (NB. I say this as someone with no vested interest in the PUP, or unionism/loyalism more generally).

    From the little I know of Hutchinson (and what I’ve heard in particularly about his genuine community development work on the Shore Road) in recent years, I would say he’s as well placed as anyone to articulate the needs/concerns of working class loyalists/unionists (certainly more so than north Belfast’s Oxbridge-educated MP, or its other DUP MLAs).

    Whether, as you allude to, he can divorce that from the party’s position as a relatively reactionary defender of the still not demilitarised/decriminalised UVF is another thing altogether. It’s a lot of baggage, and so I’d imagine not.

    For me, Sammy Douglas (and perhaps Alex Easton and Jim Allister?) there’s (at least a perception of) a void in representation for people in PUL communities. There’s potentially room there for the PUP, but I suspect at this point the brand is pretty much toxic.

  • HeinzGuderian


    Tis the term cowardly,murdering terror gangs like to use to give their ‘cowardly murders’ some sort or ‘respectability.

    I’m surprised you never knew this before ?

  • Nunoftheabove


    I’m fully aware of the broad range of terms used by them and about them, this one seems to me to be particularly straightforwardly unapplicable to the vast majority of incidents in which Mr Hutchinson and his colleagues participated using such a wide variety of weaponry. It’s not an exaggeration or some form of grandiose or sweeping overstatement he makes but a pure and simple lie. Combatants they most certainly were/are not.

  • Cynic2

    “You can’t be a criminal and a loyalist at the same time.”

    Wasn’t that why Dawn Purvis left the Party? So what do you do then? Resign 20 minutes before the robbery and rejoin afterwards?

  • Decimus

    The term combatants was one introduced by terrorists in order to attempt to put themselves on a level playing field with the security forces. Thus the Provo terrorist who walked up to an off duty police officer in a supermarket car park, and shot him in the back of the head, was the equal of his victim. Despite the fact that neither might have ever seen any combat. In fact to the terrorist that vile act was an act of combat.

  • lamhdearg

    Too honest ( in the would’nt lie to your face type) to succeed, good,the pup are just like the tuv, splitters of the non irish nats vote.

  • lamhdearg

    “You can’t be a criminal and a loyalist at the same time.”

    what billy MAY mean is, that if you rob a bank, then the procedes of the robbery should not go towards sending the leaders of the group to which you belong going to spain for a holiday, but should be spent on forwarding the cause of your groups aims.

  • Nunoftheabove


    Indeed – attach a spurious political motivation to an act of base criminality and – abracadabra – it no longer becomes criminal. Now that’s magic !

  • GEF

    Billy Hutchinson was proved to be an outright hypocrite on the Nolan show this morning by Naomi Long. The present MP for East Belfast reminded Billy about a speech he gave in the City Hall when he was a PUP councillor and was all in favour of the City Hall only flying the Union flag for a number of designated days instead of 365 days a year back 10 years ago. So what happened Billy she asked? He answered more or less times have changed since back then, so now I am allowed to change my views and want it flown 365 days.

  • Mark

    I once saw Billy Hutchinson getting head butted by some guy twice his size after Billy had tried to clam down an argument over marches ( i think ) . He didnt backdown and I thought this fella is the real deal and maybe with him leading working class Unionism , there was hope .

    But I too listened to him on the radio and he sounded like soneone from the eighties . Apart from the example GEF gave about his speech re flying of the flag , every other answer was blaming SF and anti GFA Republicans for the riots at City Hall .

    I wouldn’t say while making his speech ten years ago , he would have envisaged the mess Mark Haddock and the boys leave leave Mount Vernon in …..

  • DC

    It’s a tight-rope he has to walk which at times means his language can be a bit strangled, he’s attempting to clean up the mess left not only by Haddock but by the DUP and the UUP post-leaflet.

    Sad thing is it’s a thankless task, he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. But someone has to otherwise ‘the right’ just populates and takes over.

  • The only other Western democracies that have had successful paramilitary parties besides Northern Ireland are Ireland and Israel. In both countries they were successful because the parties were of the continuity type in which the party was a continuation of the paramilitary group in a new form rather than the political wing type in which the party is merely the PR and electoral arm of the group. In Israel the Likud started out as the Herut Party, which was the continuation of the Irgun Zvai Leumi paramilitary organization. But Yitzhak Shamir was from the Lohemei Herut Israel paramilitary group. He became prime minister decades after his group’s political party failed by joining Herut after its leader, Menahem Begin asked him to. Considering the way things are going for the PUP, maybe Hutchinson should ask Davy Adams and the former UDP leaders–whose name escapes me at the moment–to join his party. There are precious few loyalist votes to go around for paramilitary parties. They would be better off pooling.