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David Ervine’s brother Brian reveals ambition to lead the PUP

By Brian Rowan

Another Ervine could emerge as leader of the Progressive Unionist Party — and go head-to-head with Dawn Purvis in a battle for a seat in next year’s Stormont elections.

Brian Ervine, brother of the late David Ervine, has spoken to the Belfast Telegraph about his leadership ambitions, the Assembly elections and the PUP’s controversial political link to the UVF and Red Hand Commando.

That link and the UVF killing of loyalist Bobby Moffett on the Shankill Road in May plunged the party into crisis.

Stormont MLA Ms Purvis resigned both her membership and leadership of the PUP, with Belfast City Councillor Dr John Kyle stepping in as interim leader.

It is understood he is not interested in continuing in the position beyond the party’s annual conference next month.

“He doesn’t want to stand as leader,” Mr Ervine said. “I would have been happy to back him as leader.”

Asked about his own political ambitions, he responded: “I am certainly considering both positions – running for election (to Stormont) and for leadership of the party, but final decisions have yet to be made. I do think if I stand then I have a better than good chance of winning the seat.”

After the sudden death of David Ervine in January 2007, Dawn Purvis became party leader and retained the East Belfast Assembly seat with an increased vote in March that year. But the Moffett killing, that the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) said was sanctioned by UVF leaders, changed everything.

Ms Purvis left the party but kept her Stormont seat, continuing as an Independent.

Her new office in east Belfast was officially opened last Saturday.

In a reference to the Shankill murder and the involvement of the UVF, she said she could no longer “offer leadership to a party which is expected to answer for the indefensible actions of others”.

Asked about the party’s political link to the UVF and Red Hand Commando, Mr Ervine said: “We have to define the term ‘link’.

“I would think of a pathway from paramilitarism to peace and politics, and from destruction to building. It’s a way of guiding and steering people from violence to play a constructive part in contributing to their society.

“If the British Government can talk to dissidents, can we not continue a dialogue with the UVF and Red Hand Commando?”

And the former RUC officer said: “The link does not mean condoning criminality, gangsterism or murder — especially when those gangsters wrap themselves in a Union flag or an Ulster flag.

“As my late brother often said, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, Ms Purvis said she had no comment to make at this stage.

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