PUP-Is there anyway back in from the cold?

The PUP has not had a very happy post-Good Friday Agreement existence. Since 1998, they have suffered an electoral decline that would make David Trimble blush. Yes, Northern Ireland’s voice of Loyalism has been out of sorts and out of political influence since it lost its last remaining assembly seat in 2010 when Dawn Purvis left the party. In addition to this, the party has lost a staggering 88% of its vote over the last 15 years.

The party now has just two councillor’s province wide and enjoys support in very few parts of Northern Ireland. But in its heyday the PUP was a real force in Belfast enjoying the support of thousands of voters. So this makes me pose the question, where did it all go wrong and is there any way back in from the political wilderness for the party?

In 1998, the PUP won 13,019 votes (1.6%) across Northern Ireland, electing two assembly members (Billy Hutchinson and David Ervine). What was remarkable about this result was that the party was not just solely the David Ervine/East Belfast party but had a solid base in all four Belfast constituencies.

In the more favourable constituencies for the party like North and East Belfast, the party averaged around 10% of the vote. This represented around 68% of the party’s total vote province wide.

But in more hostile territory like South and West Belfast, the party polled a respectable 5.2% in each constituency. The PUP candidate for South Belfast, Ernie Purvis, polled 2,112 votes while his better known counterpart in West Belfast, Hugh Smyth won 2,180 votes. The party’s vote in these two constituencies represented more than 30% of the party’s total support province wide.

Ever since, however, the PUP’s decline has been sudden and crippling. Since 2003, the party has effectively been forced to retreat into East Belfast. During the 2003 assembly election, the PUP suffered a major setback as they lost Billy Hutchinson in North Belfast who in just four years lost a huge 61.9% of his vote, winning just 1,358 votes (4.3% of the vote). The party suffered dismal results in West and South Belfast as they won just 813 and 495 votes respectively in each constituency. Even in their heartland of East Belfast the party lost 2,395 votes.

When the party contested their first election in 2007 following the death of David Ervine, Dawn Purvis managed to score an upset by holding East Belfast with an increased majority. However, this result masked the major decline in the rest of the province as the party’s vote shrank to just 0.6%. The constituency of East Belfast had gone from being just 41.3% of the party’s total province wide support in 1998 to 80% in 2007. It is also important to note that the party did not run any candidates in either North or West Belfast at this election.

In 2010, when Purvis walked out of the PUP, the writing was effectively on the wall. Since 2003, the party had effectively become an East Belfast pressure group. The split that inevitably followed would ensure that no Loyalist voice would be present at the next assembly. What should be worrying for the PUP is that when you look at the 2011 assembly election you see that Dawn Purvis despite walking out on the party still managed to hold around 53% of the vote that she won at the previous election.

Where to now?

Can the recent flag protests salvage the party? I don’t honestly know but it will be an uphill battle for the party from here. The votes they need to take back are largely from the DUP and the rest have just stopped voting. The party are hoping to capitalise on disenchantment but at the 2016 election I can see most Unionist parties attempting to occupy this space which will make it hard for the party to get attention and therefore votes.

I often wonder how the modern Loyalist flag protestors would reconcile themselves with David Ervine’s pronoucments of stopping this nonsense about ‘not being Irish.’ Ervine made the obvious point that ‘how can you live on the island of Ireland’ and not have some form of Irishness. Alas, I think those days are gone, as Loyalism now looks to people like Jamie Bryson for intellectual teachings. Perhaps there in lies the problem for the movement as a whole.

On a historical note and I am inviting people to fact check me on this, I cannot find a party in Northern Ireland electoral history who once losing all their seats ever returned. If you can find one, please leave a comment below and I’ll fire it up.

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  • redstar2011

    Assuming the unionist “fleg” protestor types can manage an X or a 1,2,3 surely the Pups involvement with the recent antics should see an upturn in their electoral performance

  • Comrade Stalin

    I saw pictures of the second UVF parade in recent months with convicted murderer Billy Hutchinson hilariously decked out in a Top Hat “inspecting” UVF troops in fancy dress.

    Why do unionist politicians allow these people to speak for them ? Hutchinson has no mandate, and his particular role as a UVF member makes it appear as if he is trying to place some sort of a claim as Carson’s successor.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I was reminded of how Hutch’s “inspection” was occurring the day after the UVF shot a woman in East Belfast in what appears to have been some sort of punishment attack.

    Newton Emerson has commented on how the UVF seems to be under some sort of protection from the authorities and it is easy to see why someone might form this conclusion.


    It will be interesting to see how all of this translates electorally. The UVF are an incoherent mess; Dr John Kyle was clearly unhappy about the mural going up in East Belfast where Hutch opted to say nothing. Young PUP members seem to be oblivious to the party’s clear UVF links and its silence whenever the UVF intimidates or murders people.

  • MrPMartin

    I never understood Dr John Kyle. He’s an educated mild mannered articulate doctor of medicine yet how did he end up getting involved with a party with not in tenuous links to terrorism

  • MrPMartin

    It’s like Paddington Bear joining the Sons of Anarchy or Hells Angels. What companionship can the light have with the darkness?

  • Comrade Stalin


    I think that he, and a few other PUP members, are either in denial or are incredibly naive – or both.

  • mjh

    Interesting post David.

    By1998 the PUP were already in steep decline. In the 1996 Forum elections they scored 26,082 votes, and a 3.5% share.

    That achievement represented an overnight improvement from the 0.6% share in the 1980’s, which had actually dropped to 0.4% in the Local Governament elections of 1993.

    Looked at this way, their current performance seems to be a reversion to their normal electoral irrelevance.

  • redstar2011

    They need some political goliath like Jamie to join their ranks

  • Submariner

    They need some political goliath like Jamie to join their ranks

    He shouldn’t be to hard to persuade,he is after all a keen admirer of their military wing

  • redstar2011


    Very true Submariner

  • DC

    dark and light – what nonsense. you would think he had signed himself up for evil rather than representing ordinary folk from less well off areas that contain paramilitaties.

    The conflict transformation model is about engaging paramilitaries and getting everyone to work towards change for the better.

    david ford is playing his own part in conflict transformation by working for / on behalf of martin mcguinness, a former strategic director of mass terror throughout ireland and britain if not beyond.

  • Neil


    Hutchinson was playing the role of Carson at yesterday’s event. Kind of gives the lie to the historical UVF defence.

  • jeanabelle

    I don’t know about what went on in the loyalist community but myself being from the republican community but I thought David Ervine was a breath of fresh air……he had the ability to see things from both perspectives. I morne his early passing and just wish there were more like him around today. The boyo Hutchinson is not able to walk a single step in Ervine wake. Why did Dawn Pervice leave the PUP anyhow?

  • One of the most promising aspects of the PUP in 1998 was it’s focus on the Working-Class people. Sadly since the loss of Ervine and Purvis, the party’s focus has changed to encourage sectarianism amongst ordinary citizens. Hence the PUP’s electoral decline in recent years.

  • MrPMartin

    Paramilitarism springs up where there is no moral compass. Religiosity is not necessary the same as spirituality. Communities where para militarism thrives are morally dysfunctional. Instead of pandering to such communities they should be educated in how to live properly and yes I mean by proper law abiding middle class people who don’t see having a criminal record as a badge of honour

    I’m not a troll and I genuinely hold the opinions above as do many others but we are scared to voice this publicly as we live in an era of politically correct fascistic groupthink where any deviation from lefty ism eg calling a scumbag terrorist a scumbag, is seen as an act of
    Debauched thinking

    I never bought into the canonisation of David Ervine. He and his ilk were criminals and have no right to political participation. I hold the same opinion of Sinn Fein

    Yes, getting votes does not absolve evil. Evil is evil is evil

  • redstar2011

    @ Mr P Martin

    Yeah the midle classess are all law abiding and of higher moral character and the only scumbags were the ” terrorists” never those in uniform your ilk idolise

    I can indeed see why you keep such opinions to yourself

  • Comrade Stalin


    That’s exactly what I was getting at. In the parade pictures yesterday I also took note of some modern-day UVF banners, including a banner with the Flag of the Government of Northern Ireland in the canton. That flag was conceived after the “old UVF” was absorbed into the USC and thus effectively disbanded.

  • redstar2011

    I am minded of the late great David Dunseith ( a hero of mine) who once said that some of he worst sectarianism he ever encountered was amongst the golf club fraternity as opposed to the riff raff football follower types.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I’ve seen pictures of Nigel Dodds (at the UVF parade yesterday) and Jim Allister (at the flags protests up at Twaddell Ave). Big house unionism is encouraging and endorsing this kind of conduct.

  • Comrade Stalin

    BTW in the picture I saw Jim Allister was standing next but one to Billy Hutchinson.

  • David Crookes

    I hate clitches, but birds of a feather really do flock together.

  • MrPMartin

    Those communities are brutish and ignorant. That’s a fact. If anyone here thinks I’m wrong then I suggest you buy a house in such areas and live amongst them.

    Ever been to a back street pub or working men’s club? Racism, sexism and every other horrible opinion is there in spades

    A uniformed soldier of the state is never a terrorist. He or she does not join up to blow up children or any other innocent person unlike UVF/IRA

    are the people of NI so ignorant of what constitutes normal
    Civilised behaviour that credence is always given to terrorists and their political covers? This is worthy of the Middle East and not a supposed civilised part of Western Europe

    only backward failed states entertain gunmen in government. No good fruit is ever borne from it

  • DC

    What did for Billy Hutchinson was Holy Cross and being associated with that toxic event.

    That was imo the end of him, certainly at that particular point in time, electorally there was no way back after being associated with that. that proves all PR is not good PR.

    David Ervine wasn’t associated with Holy Cross and he always worked on the idealism so when the bad shit happened such as the reactionary stuff people would on the whole still view him positively and see him as someone as trying to give a bit of lead, however bad the reactionary stuff was going on around him.

    I also read somewhere that the PUP received the most transfers from Alliance and that obviously dried up.

    A more transfer friendly party under Ervine and Purvis has gone back to loyalist identity issues (right wing?) it would seem, than being about that but also moving out onto socio economic stuff which is strange as Billy Hutchinson is pro equality and this is where i don’t buy into the PUP taking or competing with mainstream DUP voters.

    Aaron Edwards has written about how the PUP should present itself and set itself out but it is yet to be taken up with gusto.

    I agree Billy Hutchinson needs to define the PUP UVF link better and actually speak out on UVF murals appearing / reappearing or at least give the PUP take on what these mean or why they are reappearing, based on his take.

    The street artist or whoever paid for the street artist would have been better painting a union flag up on the wall. That would have at least conjured up something of relevance, the flag protests which drew support from actually non-paramilitary connected types despite the media painting it as mainly UVF-run.

    Perhaps something like this:



    The letters making up the flag are the lyrics to the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK but let’s not be prescriptive – you could hire the french artist that did shoreditch and adjust the lettering, perhaps the sash or something 🙂

  • Comrade Stalin


    You sound very naive to me. There are people from middle class backgrounds manipulating and in some cases controlling these thuggish elements. Ian Paisley (senior) built an entire career out of this; stirring up trouble and then running back to the comfort of his protected, leafy East Belfast private mansion on Cyprus Avenue.

    Not everyone who joins the police or the army does so with honourable intentions. There are people on both who abuse their position. It is not a problem unique to Northern Ireland.

    I can tell what you think by your use of the term “gunmen in government”. There are numerous examples of governments comprised of former gunmen’; South Africa for example. In Germany they have the same debate that we are now having about former Stasi figures being in the police or the authorities. Please get over yourself and stop thinking that we are some sort of special or unusual case. The people we have in government are there because we put them there. The state of the country as it now is is a consequence of the decisions taken by voters at the ballot box.

  • DC

    Mr P Martin, you and Comrade Stalin should get on very well!

    Going back to the shoreditch union flag instead of UVF men with woolly faces, the union flag could contain names of the children in the area who wanted to take part in the project and have their name put in on the wall for posterity or something – wouldn’t that have been a nicer touch, a bit more fun and engaging at a community level?

    And/or a Rangers logo with ‘For Richer and for Poorer.’ Humorous you might think but in football as is in life, things shouldn’t just be about money = success.

  • Helicopter of the Holy Ghost

    David, interesting post as always, but where is the evidence that “Loyalism now looks to people like Jamie Bryson for intellectual teachings”?

    Bryson was horrified by the PUP’s stance on equal marriage, so I don’t see how you equate him with the party? Some of his more unhinged moments have come when he has been arguing with PUP members.

  • redstar2011

    He has had some moments which werent unhinged??????

  • qwerty12345

    MrPMartin since the teaching profession has always been the preserve of the blessed “middle class” here one might suggest that they have done a terrible job at liberating those that you seem so quick to look down upon.

    Do you really believe that there is less noxious sentiment amongst the monied? That certainly has not been my experience. If we replace Buckfast with gin and tonic will casual bigotry at least have better grammar?

    Terrorism isn’t what state forces get involved in? really? Seriously?

    “only backward failed states entertain gunmen in government” oh well thats every leader who has ever had a military career on the scrap heap.

    Your swipe at the uncivilised middle east is rather amusing. Spent much time there? Do tell. For your information and imho there is more culture and civilisation in the back streets of Beirut than there will EVER be in this petty grey dump.

    Oh and another thing, since much of our problem here has to do with different groups of people living out their delusions of superiority over others, where exactly does expressing the very same kind of prejudice get us?

  • DC

    Mr P Martin and his belief in the divine right of the middle classes to govern all.

  • David,
    An excellent post–at least as far as the figures go. It would appear that the PUP is the real Belfast Party, rather than Alliance. It is now in the same position that the Ulster Democratic Party was in between 1998 and 2001 when it lost its only MLAs (after the top-up feature of the 1996 election) and had only a few councilors in places like Lisburn.

    In the summer of 2001 I met with Gary McMichael, a few months before his party went defunct. I told him the story of Yitzhak Shamir who had been one of the leaders of the smallest Israeli paramilitary group in the 1940s. His group created a separate party in 1948-49 for the Feb 1949 election and elected one member to the Knesset and then went out of business. Decades later in the late 1960s Shamir joined the Herut Party, which was the continuation of a much larger paramilitary group. Shamir went from Speaker of the Knesset in 1977 to foreign minister in 1980 and prime minister in 1983. I said the lesson was clear: the UDP and PUP had to create a common party and break the link with their respective paramilitary organizations. He said that this was impossible because of the bad blood between the organizations because of the feuds.

    If Ervine had done what Purvis later did, and he had had McMichael and Davy Adams in the party, then the future might have been different. But both parties tried to behave like Sinn Fein–in a much different unionist electorate. The unionist electorate was a much tougher political environment for paramilitary parties than was the nationalist electorate, and Sinn Fein really had a decade’s head start on the loyalists in forming political parties. The loyalist parties didn’t really get started until the loyalist ceasefires–before that they were like the old SF as merely p.r. dept. of the paramilitary organization. If the two parties had been operating as a single independent party by 1994 they might have had a chance. With Ervine’s death and Purvis’s departure the leadership was really gone from the PUP.

  • Red Lion

    If the PUP actually articulated a viewpoint that was unique and noticeably different from the DUP and UUP then they would be able to carve out votes.

    As it is, the DUP,UUP and PUP all parrot each other on tribal issues. Therefore, if you are a voter minded to vote for such parroting, why vote for the smallest and most insignifcant party? You’re going to vote for the bigger and louder voice.

    Back in 1998 there was clear blue water between the PUP and other parties; they had a narrative – trying to give political representation and advancement to the unionist working class, trying to bring loyalist paramilitarism into the peace process, and people like Ervine and Dawn Purvis did actually sound progressive in relative terms compared to the DUP. All this has now disappeared into thin air. Strategy no more.

    There are now largely 2 main camps within the pro-union side of things. The DUP-UUP-PUP dogmatic head-in-sanders, and the small but appealing NI21.

    Incidentally I think Dawn Purvis would do well in NI21.

  • I hesitate to comment here, as I don’t have time to engage in debate. (I’m on a Fellowship in an American PhD program and have a heavy workload).

    I joined the PUP after Dawn resigned. I am also a flag protestor. I consider myself British, Irish, and Northern Irish. Many of us loyalists do. And many don’t. But what we all agree on is that Northern Ireland should be respected as a member of the United Kingdom, in accordance with the wishes of the majority, as was agreed in the GFA.

    David Ervine often noted that in Northern Ireland “We don’t vote for what we want, we vote against what we don’t want, so the perceived political bulwark against that which you don’t want is the one that’s trawling in all the votes”. He also argued that the term “Loyalism” was used as part of a distancing process through which the great and the good could spin the story that if only all the bad people would just go away, what a wonderful place this would be. If he were here today I’m confident that he would stand with people who are alienated, and that he would have asked us all to consider the causes of the unrest.

    If you think that Loyalism is looking to Jamie Bryson for intellectual teachings then you simply don’t know about what is going on in Loyalism, and that’s not a dig at Jamie.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The PUP and UDP were set up in an attempt to emulate the source of Sinn Féin’s perceived success namely its link to a paramilitary organization. They fell apart for a few reasons; the loyalist paramilitaries themselves weren’t interested in supporting the peace process and went back to sectarian killing not long after all their prisoners were released. Their extensive criminal interests were more important to them than what was going on in politics.

    The UDP were disbanded forcefully by the UDA. The UVF just ignored the PUP. I think people put a bit too much store in David Ervine who never, as I recall, broke ranks with the UVF leadership (in the way that Purvis eventually did).

  • MrPMartin

    Too much regard for rough people in this country

  • MrPMartin


    Oh yes, let’s praise Beruit. Such benchmarks we set for ourselves. people like you probably think poverty absolves people from acts and beliefs that are morally reprehensible.

    I know this is not trendy of course but unlike ‘liberals’ I can actually think for myself. I am proudly middle class. My children don’t go out into the streets to protest or partake in vandalism because I HAVE BROUGHT THEM UP PROPERLY

    Do you understand that or are you just going to fish more leftist cliché from the pool of groupthink

    please answer me why working class people are predominant in street thuggery? Don’t say they are not for its blatantly obvious.

    And yes, let me save you a few sentences. I am stuck up, a snob etc but I know who is causing trouble and not the sons of business men or accountants.

  • FDM

    Paul_David_Robinson 29 September 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Loyalism and orangeism are both decadent ideologies of yesteryear. They have nothing to offer us now, tomorrow the same. You would expect someone with smarts to work that out term one.

    A PhD and UVF leanings, that must be a first

    Is the PhD in Chemistry? Useful skills in loyalism these days.

    [PS. Kyle is an MD].

  • FDM:

    For the record: I am not an Orangeman. I am a Loyalist. My PhD will focus on rationality and the biases that people have. If you would like to learn about education in Loyalism then start by checking out the work that Alternatives and Action for Community Transformation are doing and also read Tony Novosel (2013) Northern Ireland’s Lost Opportunity, 62-87.

    Snark and pettiness have nothing to offer us.

  • redstar2011


    You are an intelligent man. Do you not see that the games up as regards one community dominating another, flags or parades where they arent wanted

    . Add to that the unionists dont have the numbers anymore as regards council maj, with BCC heading towards maj Nat control within next 2 elections.

    Is this a case of intelligence doesnt always equal realism.

  • Seamuscamp

    “an attempt to emulate the source of Sinn Féin’s perceived success namely its link to a paramilitary organization.”

    Perhaps this simplistic view of SF was the reason for the failures? If SF had relied merely on its relationship to PIRA, I doubt whether it would have been the dominant force it became. The link to PIRA was undoubtedly important, but without some sort of relevant political agenda it would have eventually become marginal.

    From the outside it looked as if the Ervine-era philosophy was an attempt to look to a possible future of mutual understanding; whereas the successors look exclusively to a return to a past ascendancy incompatible with democracy. So the lesson might well be that the Loyalist community is not represented by the Hutchinson/Bryson axis – the vast majority want peace, tolerance and inter-community respect.

    Incidentally I in no way support SF.

    MrPMartin: Your utterances are as pertinent and informed as those of the late UPC.

  • DC

    where is ulster press centre, a light in the darkness?

  • Comrade Stalin


    I joined the PUP after Dawn resigned.

    Just to remind everyone that Dawn resigned because the UVF murdered a civilian in broad daylight on the Shankill Road.

    That aside, I’d be very interested to hear why you joined the flag protests and what you hoped at the time they would accomplish; and whether or not it occurred to you that both the protests and the elements who supported them may, unwittingly, have been reinforcing public opinion (including that of many pro-union people) against them.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Sinn Féin (especially since the 1990s) are a great deal more than a paramilitary wing so I’m not one of the people who characterize it solely on that basis, especially now that said paramilitary wing, for all intents and purposes, was ordered to stand down and no longer exists.

    My point was that the people who set up the UDP and PUP made a rather simplistic calculation that an electoral base can be built out of being a paramilitary wing and very little else. David Ervine speaking by himself would have had no base and no support; it was his status as a participant in the conflict that made him credible.

    I believe a lot of nationalists were transferring to the PUP and UDP back in those earlier days, believing that these fresh voices needed their support. Those transfers disappeared when the commitment of the UDA and UVF began to visibly waver.

  • Submariner

    DC (profile) 29 September 2013 at 7:30 pm
    where is ulster press centre, a light in the darkness?

    Describing the rantings of a self confessed supporter of a bunch of Sectarian mass murdering terrorists as a light in the darkness is the epitome of the flegger mentality.

  • Red Lion

    Paul, good to have your input.

    “”If you think that Loyalism is looking to Jamie Bryson for intellectual teachings then you simply don’t know about what is going on in Loyalism, and that’s not a dig at Jamie.””

    Would you be able to indicate where loyalism is looking for intellectual teachings? I see no evidence of it. As a fellow pro-union man I see the flag protests, the modern PUP and most of unionism and loyalism as not intellectual at all. In fact I see them as positively anti-intellectual.

    The only glimmer of hope I see is NI21. Just about the only bit of intellectualism going on from a pro-union point of view.

  • Turgon

    A good article from David McCann. However, it could be expanded. West of the Bann (where frequently the unionist community suffered disproportionally badly at the hands of republican terrorists) there is practically no PUP support. Indeed west of the Bann, Alliance (pathetic as their support there is) is a positive powerhouse as compared to the PUP.

    The reasons for the PUP’s collapse are probably many. As mentioned above they had very little support prior to the ceasefires. Following that some may have given them a vote in part to try to keep the loyalist terrorists out of criminality. The fact is that the UVF and UDA have continued criminality almost unabated except that they now almost exclusively target working class Protestants / Unionists rather than anyone else. As such then it is unsurprising that working class Protestants / Unionists seem disinclined to vote for the UVF’s political wing.

    Also anecdotally (though on good authority) I have been told that neither the PUP nor Purvis ever did much at all for their constituents unless they were “known” to them.

  • Neil

    With his succesful retaliatory pipe bomb raids on SS pensioners he was certainly a source of enlightenment. Just not in the way DC means.

  • DC

    (where frequently the unionist community suffered disproportionally badly at the hands of republican terrorists) there is practically no PUP support.

    Maybe if there had been more PUP support they would have suffered less badly?

  • Turgon

    Oh yes so a pack of murdering, drug dealing thugs would have helped the Fermanagh unionists would it?

    Since the UVF / UDA/ alphabet soup managed to kill practically no republican terrorists and certainly none in the process of killing anyone else (not that I would have supported the murderous loyalists no matter what) that seems completely impossible.

    Tell me what might the UVF or UDA have done to help the likes of Douglas Deering the last Protestant shop keeper in Rosslea murdered by the IRA? I will tell you. They would have tried to extort money from him and that is all. The sort of “protection” offered by loyalists was protection from said loyalists provided the victims kept paying up.

    Then what good could the people of Enniskillen have gained from the loyalists prior to the bomb: exactly none. The same for the children of Tullyhommon almost murdered en masse the same day as the Enniskillen bomb. In reality DC I very much doubt if many UVF or PUP members would have the faintest idea where Tullyhommon is without looking it up. At least nowadays they could use the internet. Had they faced the challenge of a map they would probably have ended up in South Down.

  • Mc Slaggart


    “West of the Bann (where frequently the unionist community suffered disproportionally badly at the hands of republican terrorists)”

    “disproportionat” compared to whom?

  • Submariner

    Maybe if there had been more PUP support they would have suffered less badly?

    Really DC and how exactly would they have achieved this?

  • Gopher

    With the union the default position and an intrinsic part of peoples lives and great swathes of working class areas gone I’m not sure PUP have much of a future outside political lobbying. They cant really sell the promise of an endgame (however fanciful) like SF to galvanize voters.

  • DC

    Really DC and how exactly would they have achieved this?

    ways and means i guess.

  • Submariner

    ways and means i guess.

    Well that explains things.As i said flegger mentality writ large.

  • Thanks, Red Lion. Loyalism is a broad movement and the protests are just that: protests. Jamie Bryson voiced many of the concerns that people have, but I’m not aware that anyone is looking to him for intellectual teachings. Many Loyalists are critical of his wider politico-religious views, but support him insofar as he is a fellow protestor.

    Do you know about Alternatives and Action for Community Transformation? And have you read Tony Novosel (2013) Northern Ireland’s Lost Opportunity?

    In the PUP we have a newly re-formed youth wing, and we produced a discussion document (these are just ideas) in February (check out the later sections especially):


    Our first three months are reviewed here:


    Those are just some of the things I’ve been involved with. There’s a lot going on in Loyalism. And anyone who thinks that the PUP and DUP are similar hasn’t been paying attention to the “Progressive” part of our name. When analyzing the electoral history of the PUP do keep in mind the “fundamental attribution error” and the wider dynamics at work in Northern Ireland. (And do the same when considering why Dawn Purvis — a progressive woman who highlighted working class issues — only managed to split the PUP vote when she ran on her own, despite being loved by the media). David Ervine had it right, I think.

    Comrade Stalin: I was a panel member for a WIMPS webcast on Flags and Protests, in front of a mixed live audience. You can download my notes, below. (Please know that I was speaking in a personal capacity, not on behalf of the PUP).


  • Comrade Stalin


    The evidence to date is that voting the PUP accomplished nothing in terms of persuading the UVF, and why would it ? Turgon has already covered the details much better than I could.

    The loyalists fantasized about targeting republican paramilitaries and on a few occasions they were successful. But generally they went after soft targets that were undefended.

  • Mc Slaggart


    “ways and means i guess.”

    It would not have worked in places like Tyrone it only ever made things worse. The English political philosopher Newton did the maths a very long time for how to turn an annoyed people into ones who shoot bus drivers in the head. 1

    When the B Specials came streaming out of the Courthouse in Omagh smashing protesters of the street those who were most effected were the ones left alone due to the recognition of friend or neighbor.2

    The “security forces” carved out an enemy from their own fears.

    People in the UDR was not killed because they were Protestant but mostly they were the easy target. As Mick (of this parish) would say of getting things done take the “low hanging fruit”. A Catholic UDR/RUC person was a much higher target.

    The acceleration of a body is directly proportional to, and in the same direction as, the net force acting on the body, and inversely proportional to its mass. Thus, F = ma, where F is the net force acting on the object, m is the mass of the object and a is the acceleration of the object.

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.


  • “My point was that the people who set up the UDP and PUP made a rather simplistic calculation that an electoral base can be built out of being a paramilitary wing and very little else. David Ervine speaking by himself would have had no base and no support; it was his status as a participant in the conflict that made him credible.”

    @Comrade Stalin,

    Much the same could be said of Sinn Fein. Ervine, copying the Shinners did try and build off of whatever credibility he was loaned through his paramilitary past by marketing a pro-union socialism. I was also told by McMichael that this was one of the reasons why the two parties couldn’t merge because his supporters didn’t believe in socialism.

    I think the biggest problem was that, as in so many other things, the loyalists simply aped the Republicans. The model they should have copied was the Israeli model of paramilitary parties being the continuation by other means of their armed past rather than a mere political wing of an ongoing joined-at-the-hip armed wing. This is also the model pioneered by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in the South. But Israel (other than as an abstract concept) was outside of their knowledge base and the South is what they were rejecting while ironically aping the Shinners.

  • “Since the UVF / UDA/ alphabet soup managed to kill practically no republican terrorists and certainly none in the process of killing anyone else (not that I would have supported the murderous loyalists no matter what) that seems completely impossible.”

    Actually the Mid-Ulster UVF did a pretty good job of slicing up one or two of the IRA ASU’s before they became the LVF and settled down to serious Exstacy pushing and intimidation of working journalists.

  • FDM

    tmitch57 30 September 2013 at 2:11am

    “Actually the Mid-Ulster UVF did a pretty good job of slicing up one or two of the IRA ASU’s”.

    Amazing what you can do with intelligence provided by the state services, money, weapons and the protection from prosecution from the same to perform your murderous acts. Very good at murdering journalists also I understand.

    The British Army’s objective assessment of loyalist paramiliarties was pretty unequivocal in their review of Operation Banner when they described said organisations as “little more than a collection of gangsters”. Not much room for manouevre there.

  • jh25769

    I think the main reason the PUP has lost support is because they have moved from being a progressive political party into a far right leaning criminal gang.

  • FDM

    In order to garner support a party has to be able to offer something to the electorate.

    So the two main inherent questions are:

    What is on offer and to whom is it offered.

    Well first off all the Catholics are out. So theres 50% of the population out immediately.

    What then do the PUP offer the remaining, for want of a better phrase, PUL community.

    The PUP are inextricably linked with CURRENT and ONGOING loyalist violence, most notably from their UVF partners. The latter remain involved in murder, dissappearing people, drug-dealing, robbery, intimidation, racketeering and violence against police and the local population. Yesterdays UVF commemoration had PUP leader and convicted UVF murderer Billy Hutchinson front and center as the “main man” of yet another fleg waving day. So the electorate are presented with the synonymousness of being in the PUP and/or being in the UVF.

    Therefore any part of the PUL community that actually refuse to have anything to do with violence will not vote for them. I am sure the many unionists on slugger will concur that they will have nothing to do with terrorists or their apologists and will not vote for them. Deeply ironic then that they vote DUP/UUP then, who were both officially represented at UVF day yesterday.

    The PUP come across as working class murder representatives. So your middle and upper class PUL voter probably finds their working class [can’t really say socialism] ideas as a turn-off. The educated professional classes would in nearly all cases recognise the PUP as pretty vacant and threadbare violent sectarianism. They would see the PUP and flegger attempts to subvert democracy and the rule of law as insidious. “Democracy doesn’t work”, and all that. Right wing PUL people similarly won’t be too attracted to any PUP flirting with “socialism” [apologies to any real socialists out there].

    So basically the PUP are left with “socialist-ish” working class voters, who have no problem with the UVF’s murderous past and present. The central core of PUP and flegger thinking is the maintenance, nay return, to protestant ascendancy and hegemony in this state. A situation that the PUP can not and never will be electorally or otherwise able to deliver. Neither can the UUP/DUP deliver this, even with their support.

    Lastly isn’t it human nature to back a winning horse, rather than make the considered choice to back a loser.

    Loyalism is dying because it is a degenerate ideology. Hence the PUP will continue to be confined to complete obscurity in terms of mandated politics in this region.

    Sure they can bring violence to the streets. However they can only do this while there is an appetite to allow them to do so. Once patience is exhausted then the teeth will be drawn from the UVF, the PUP and the fleggers. Cheerio and good riddance.

  • IanR


    “Actually the Mid-Ulster UVF did a pretty good job of slicing up one or two of the IRA ASU’s ”

    Yes, ’cause if you look at a photo of Roseanne Mallon nothing jumps out at you more than ‘IRA Active Service Unit member”.

  • “Yes, ’cause if you look at a photo of Roseanne Mallon nothing jumps out at you more than ‘IRA Active Service Unit member”.

    “Since the UVF / UDA/ alphabet soup managed to kill practically no republican terrorists and certainly none in the process of killing anyone else.”


    It was Turgon’s quote above that I responded to. This is what Wikipedia said to about the action I eluded to in an article about the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade:

    An ambitious attack was attempted on 3 March 1991 when a unit from the Mid-Ulster Brigade went to the village of Cappagh, County Tyrone intent on killing an entire Provisional IRA unit based in the village. Taking up a position outside Boyle’s Bar, the gunmen waited for a car to pull up containing republicans and opened fire on them as they exited the vehicle. The UVF men succeeded in killing IRA volunteers John Quinn, Dwayne O’Donnell and Malcolm Nugent before entering the bar and opening fire. One more man, Thomas Armstrong, was killed in the pub but he was not a member of the IRA, while their intended target, Brian Arthurs, survived by crouching behind the bar. A member of the Mid-Ulster Brigade staff would later claim that the Cappagh attack was “one of the best things we did militarily in thirty years” as it proved they could strike directly at the Provisional IRA in an area which was a seemingly impenetrable republican stronghold.[26]

    I’m not the author of this article.

    I didn’t shed any tears for Wright when he was murdered.

  • Red Lion and Comrade Stalin: I did reply to you, but I’ve just noticed that it doesn’t seem to have made it through:

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    29 September 2013 at 9:30 pm

    In any case, I’m not sure that debate here on Slugger is particularly useful, though I’m not a regular reader. You’re welcome to email me or message me on Twitter, though. (The website of the Ohio State University department of Philosophy has my details). Cheers.