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DUP's newest MLA the daughter of a terrorist caught in Paris arms sting

By Lawrence White

Published 30/09/2015

Noel Little was convicted of a gunrunning plot
Noel Little was convicted of a gunrunning plot
James King
Samuel Quinn

The DUP's newest MLA, Emma Pengelly, is the daughter of a Markethill man who was convicted in Paris more than 20 years ago for his part in an Ulster Resistance gunrunning plot.

Noel Little along with James King and Samuel Quinn was arrested in the Hilton Hotel in Paris in April 1989 along with a South African diplomat and an American arms dealer.

It was claimed the loyalists were trying to procure arms in return for missile technology. Earlier, the model of a Javelin missile and parts of a Blowpipe missile had gone missing from the Short Brothers missiles factory in Belfast.

Writing exclusively in this newspaper today, Ms Pengelly - a special advisor to Rev Ian Paisley when he was First Minister and then to Peter Robinson - admits her father's arrest had a profound affect on her family.

He was held on remand for two years and lost his job, meaning the family had no income. Last night she said: "It was a very difficult time for my mother who was left with four young children (Emma has two sisters and a brother).

"We had been a very quiet private family who were suddenly thrust into the news.

"Markethill is a small town and suddenly we were thrust into a very strange environment."

She added: "Obviously the RUC, who had been co-operating with French security services, came to search our home. There were a lot of police involved and I remember as a young child of seven or eight seeing them all come into our home. I had never remembered any dealings with the police before."

In her article she says: "I neither wear my experience with a badge of shame nor a badge of pride. It was simply part of my childhood, a part I could do nothing to change."

Emma says her father's arrest - the three men were later given suspended jail sentences and fines ranging from £2,000 to £5,000 - had a profound impact on his life. "I love my father regardless," said Emma, who won the Pat Finucane award for her studies at the Legal Institute at Queen's.

"He made those choices in his life but I love him as a daughter.

"He is very philosophical about what happened and he acknowledges that like many other people in those highly politicised days, he made some right choices and some wrong choices. He has moved on."

In her article, Ms Pengelly says: "Just because someone may have a past does not mean you cannot have a future".

While acknowledging that that is a sentiment often expressed by Sinn Fein, she is quick to point out that it is not an excuse for continued paramilitary activity.

"Paramilitary activity should have left the stage a long time ago," she said. "There has been huge support given to people to enable them to engage in transformative change. People should have gone through that change a long time ago. I acknowledge that people can have a past but when they are given the opportunity to transform they need to take that opportunity.

"There is no place in Northern Ireland for paramilitary activity.

"My father is very much on that page. He says people of his generation had a past but they need to change."

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