Belfast Telegraph

Ex-UVF prisoner Sandford joins DUP

A former Ulster Volunteer Force prisoner who turned his back on violence is to join the DUP.

Tommy "Chico" Sandford, 67, left the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) over its links with the loyalist group after sharing a cell with Gusty Spence at the Maze in 1974.

The east Belfast community activist represented Castlereagh Central for the PUP between 2001 and 2005. He was the party`s deputy chairman.

"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," he said.

"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."

Mr Sandford joined the PUP, a 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 Spence.

"One of the resolutions was we decided that ultimately the link would be broken but the link was not broken," he added.

He left the PUP earlier this year and had intended to operate as an independent. He may run for next year`s council elections if selected by his constituency association. His nickname Chico was derived from a perceived likeness to a former Mexican footballer when he used to play the sport.

"I feel that I can do a lot more with the DUP behind me for the whole community and I have the support of Peter (Robinson)," he added.

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