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Martin McGuinness tribute to Ex-Red Hand Commando William 'Plum' Smith following death

Martin McGuinness has paid tribute to the the loyalist and former Red Hand Commando William Plum Smith following his death.

The 62-year-old played a leading role in the peace process.

He was jailed in the 1970s for 10 years for the shooting of a Catholic and along with UVF founding member Gusty Spence, PUP leader David Ervine, also a UVF member, and others about ending the conflict.

In 1994, Smith chaired the news conference at which the ceasefire of the Combined Loyalist Military Command was announced.

It came six weeks after the IRA's announcement of its ceasefire.

After chairing the ceasefire news conference, he was part of the PUP delegation for the talks leading to the Belfast Agreement.

Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, tweeted: "Sorry to hear that William (Plum) Smith has died.

"I valued his commitment and contribution to peace. My sympathy to his wife and family."

PUP chairman Brian Lacey described the death as a "massive loss for the wider loyalist community".

He said: "Plum's contribution to the peace process was major, and he showed significant courage in his determination that the conflict in Northern Ireland should end.

"He was dedicated to his work supporting the ex-prisoner community, particularly in terms of resettlement and campaigning for them and their families.”

Brian continued: “Plum was well known for his commitment to human rights work and he will be remembered by many for the time and support he gave in ensuring people’s rights and entitlements were upheld.

"He worked tirelessly for the local community on a wide range of issues, particularly on addressing poverty and disadvantage and challenging inequality.

"Within the party he will be remembered for his contribution to developing the party's commitment to social justice and supporting working-class communities.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time, who can take comfort in his legacy and the lasting contribution he made to building a new Northern Ireland."

Former PUP leader Brian Ervine also paid tribute.

He told the BBC: "William was at the forefront of negotiating and bringing loyalist paramilitaries into the peace process and politicising the UVF and Red Hand Commando.

"He was a very intelligent fellow. He educated himself in Long Kesh and he also took Irish classes there. He called the Irish language 'his own'."

He added: "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.

"He was also happy enough to stretch over the fence and do business with traditional enemies."

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