Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Linfield coach pictured on UVF parade duty

By Ciaran Barnes

A former Linfield coach has sparked fury after he was pictured in a UVF uniform attending a parade in honour of a sectarian killer.

Dressed all in black Tommy ‘Rubbers' Harrison, 56, marched in front of a UVF floral tribute at last weekend's annual Brian Robinson parade on Belfast's Shankill Road.

Pinned to the former Linfield U-16s manager's monkey hat was a silver UVF badge.

Harrison left the club — which has strict anti-sectarian policies — last season after a decade at Windsor Park.

PROUD

A Linfield spokesman said: “Tommy Harrison is no longer with the club, he left last season.”

Yesterday Harrison told Sunday Life that he was “proud” to have been involved with the parade as Robinson had been “a close friend and colleague”.

He said: “I would like to state that I have absolutely no connection whatsoever with Linfield Football Club.

“In regards to the parade, I am proud that I was part of helping to steward the parade as Brian Robinson was both a close friend and colleague who I continue to miss dearly.

“The parade was a remembrance of someone who was murdered by the security forces as well as a historical commemoration to the Robinson family's lineage to the First World War, as represented by people in period costume from that era.

“I see no reason why communities should not be allowed to remember people who have died in past conflicts in a way that is dignified without others trying to stir up trouble.”

The parade Harrison was pictured at last weekend was in honour of UVF assassin Brian Robinson, who was shot dead by undercover soldiers in 1989.

The killing occurred just seconds after the loyalist gunman had murdered Catholic Paddy McKenna at the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast.

Every year hundreds of UVF members gather on the Shankill on Robinson's anniversary for a huge commemoration.

After Harrison was pictured in last week's Sunday Life marching in a UVF uniform in front of a floral tribute to the terror gang we were told about his long time association with Linfield.

One Shankill Road football fan said: “Linfield has done great work to tackle sectarianism on and off the pitch, they don’t need anyone who had been a key figure being linked to an event like this.”

Harrison — a window fitter by trade — was jailed in 1984 on the word of UVF supergrass William ‘Budgie' Allen.

He was accused of involvement in a UVF murder plot and possession of a handgun.

But the case against him and 16 other loyalists collapsed the following year and he was freed without charge. Paramilitary sources told Sunday Life that in the 30 years since he walked free from court Harrison, who has a ‘hardman’ reputation, has maintained close ties with the UVF, a fact evidenced by his lead role in last week's Brian Robinson parade.

Pictures of Harrison with Linfield junior teams and at official functions can still be seen on the club website, despite him leaving Windsor Park last season.

So too are match reports he wrote relating to international tournaments in Belgium and Dublin.

LISTED

On the latest electoral register Harrison's address is listed as the EPIC (Ex-Prisoners Interpretive Centre) building on the Woodvale Road in Belfast.

The complex is used by former UVF inmates for education and training classes.

He is also a director of the UVF-linked ACT (Action for Community Transformation) initiative, which has its headquarters on Belfast's Shore Road.

Fellow directors include PUP leader Billy Hutchinson and ex-UVF lifer Tom Winstone.

Both men were convicted in 1974 of the double murder of Catholics Michael Loughran and Edward Morgan on the Falls Road.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph