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Terrorist father of DUP's newest MLA Emma Pengelly works as steward at St Anne's Cathedral

By Ivan Little

Published 08/10/2015

Noel Little in his role as steward at St Anne’s Cathedral
Noel Little in his role as steward at St Anne’s Cathedral
St Anne’s Cathedral
Noel Little in his paramilitary uniform

The convicted loyalist terrorist whose daughter Emma Pengelly has just been co-opted by the DUP as its newest MLA at Stormont is employed as a steward at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

And this week Noel Little, who was a leader of the Ulster Resistance movement in the 1980s, was meeting and greeting visitors to the historic Cathedral in Donegall Street.

He's one of a number of volunteer stewards who operate a rota system to welcome people to Belfast Cathedral and to help them with any queries they might have.

But few of the tourists are aware of Little's terrorist past.

He was arrested in Paris in April 1989 along with two other Ulstermen, a South African diplomat and an American arms dealer, who were meeting in a hotel in the French capital.

A court later heard that the loyalists were trying to procure arms from South Africa in return for missile technology from Northern Ireland, where a model of one missile and parts of another one had gone missing from a Territorial Army depot in Newtownards and from a Short factory in Belfast.

The court was told that Little, from Co Armagh, was the main instigator of the plot.

All three loyalists were given suspended sentences and received fines of up to 50,000 francs.

A year before the French arrests, a massive consignment of arms was smuggled into Northern Ireland from South Africa and the weapons were divided between Ulster Resistance, the UDA and the UVF.

A large number of the weapons have been recovered, but the whereabouts of many of Ulster Resistance's guns are still a mystery.

Several years ago Little, who had been photographed in 1986 with a red-bereted Peter Robinson after one of Ulster Resistance's first rallies in Portadown, denied to a British newspaper that he had been involved in the first gunrunning plot.

But he added: "I would deny it even if I was (involved)."

Last week his daughter Mrs Pengelly, formerly Emma Little, said her father's arrest had had a profound effect on her family, who were living in Markethill at the time.

She denounced paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland and said her father "was very much on that page".

She added "He says people of his generation had a past but they need to change."

Last year her father was pictured wearing a church robe on St Anne's official website after the launch of a new visitor experience at the cathedral.

But his name was listed as John Little and not Noel Little.

It is understood he reverted to using his first Christian name after he moved from his home in Co Armagh to live in Belfast.

He is also listed as an official of St Columba's Church of Ireland in east Belfast, where he is described as "premise's convenor".

It is understood that Little lives with a partner in an exclusive private development in Dundonald to which he moved late last year from a property in the Stormont area.

There was no answer at the townhouse at lunchtime yesterday.

This week Little was seen talking with visitors near the front entrance to the cathedral, where the job of the stewards is help tourists find their way around the building where the former unionist leader Edward Carson - who led the fight against Home Rule - was buried after a State funeral.

In 1996 Little was engaged in a very different role as he helped to organise a huge loyalist blockade of Markethill which lasted for several days during the Drumcree protest, with every road in and out of the town sealed off by hijacked vehicles.

Seamus Mallon, an SDLP MP who lived in the town, had to be airlifted out by an Army helicopter so that he could travel on to Westminster.

Asked about the presence of a former terrorist in such a prominent role at the cathedral, the Church of Ireland Press office said it wasn't in a position to make any immediate comment.

Belfast Telegraph

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