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Funeral of ex-loyalist paramilitary chief William 'Plum' Smith held in Belfast

Published 10/06/2016

Former loyalist paramilitary and Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) chairman William 'Plum' Smith's funeral takes place from St Matthews Church of Ireland on the Woodvale road in Belfast.
Former loyalist paramilitary and Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) chairman William 'Plum' Smith's funeral takes place from St Matthews Church of Ireland on the Woodvale road in Belfast.
Former loyalist paramilitary and Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) chairman William 'Plum' Smith's funeral takes place from St Matthews Church of Ireland on the Woodvale road in Belfast. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Former loyalist paramilitary and Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) chairman William 'Plum' Smith's funeral takes place from St Matthews Church of Ireland on the Woodvale road in Belfast. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
William 'Plum' Smith Funeral, St Matthew's Parish Church Woodvale Rd, Belfast Photographer Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye
William 'Plum' Smith Funeral, St Matthew's Parish Church Woodvale Rd, Belfast Photographer Matt Mackey / Press Eye
William 'Plum' Smith Funeral, St Matthew's Parish Church Woodvale Rd, Belfast Photographer Matt Mackey/Press Eye
William 'Plum' Smith Funeral, St Matthew's Parish Church Woodvale Rd, Belfast Photographer Matt Mackey/Press Eye
William 'Plum' Smith Funeral, St Matthew's Parish Church Woodvale Rd, Belfast Photographer Matt Mackey/Press Eye
William 'Plum' Smith Funeral, St Matthew's Parish Church Woodvale Rd, Belfast Photographer Matt Mackey/Press Eye
William "Plum" Smith, pictured in 1994, has died

The funeral of a former leading loyalist paramilitary who played a key role in the peace process has taken place in Belfast.

William "Plum" Smith died in hospital after a short illness. He was 62.

His funeral is taking place at St Matthew's Parish Church, Woodvale Road on Friday.

The former Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando paramilitary was imprisoned during the Troubles for attempted murder.

During some of the worst years of the conflict he and other senior loyalists, including Gusty Spence and David Ervine, started formulating strategies to move Northern Ireland away from violence.

He was central to the process which brought the historic step of the Combined Loyalist Military Command ceasefire in 1994, chairing the press conference that announced the move.

Smith later went on to become part of the loyalist political delegation that helped negotiate the landmark Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

He was a former chairman of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), which has a close alignment with the UVF.

Former PUP leader Brian Ervine described Smith as a "very intelligent" man.

"I'm just very, very sorry," he said.

William ‘Plum’ Smith
William ‘Plum’ Smith
William ‘Plum’ Smith with Rea in 1970s
Loyalist William 'Plum' Smith
Left to right: Rev Harold Good, John Bunting, William 'Plum' Smith, Jackie McDonald, Martin McGuinness, Harry Thompson, Winston 'Winkie' Rea, Peter Sheridan, Brian Rowan

"I found him a very decent human being, and I found him a very forward-thinking human being and he will be a loss, certainly to the Progressive Unionist Party and the loyalist community.

"He was a clear thinker, he was left-of-centre politically, he had a heart for ordinary people, for working-class people, he tried to provide a voice, a voice which had been neglected."

Mr Ervine told Radio Ulster: "He was also happy enough to stretch over the fence and do business with traditional enemies."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was among the politicians who paid tribute.

He tweeted: "I valued his commitment and contribution to peace."

Progressive Unionist politician Dr John Kyle, who like Smith was once chairman of the party, added: "He pushed the peace process forward as an important negotiator who helped bring the conflict to an end, but it all took a physical and an emotional toll on him."

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