Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Unmasked: Winston 'Winkie' Irvine is UVF terrorist in balaclava

PUP man on policing board made sinister sectarian speech in disguise

PUP man Winston Irvine

A leading loyalist has been unmasked as the UVF man behind this balaclava.

Sunday Life has learned that voice recognition experts have identified Winston 'Winkie' Irvine as the paramilitary in our main photo making a sinister speech at a commemoration for a sectarian killer.

Nowadays the Shankill Road man is a prominent Progressive Unionist Party spokesman and member of the North Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP).

He is paid £60 of public money every time he attends a meeting with PSNI chiefs to discuss how to combat crime in his area.

But back in September 1998 -- when a masked Winkie was filmed for the 'Loyalists' BBC television documentary -- he was a young UVF member only too happy to promote violence and breaking the law.

With his face covered by his balaclava he told a crowd: "In the past we have defended your liberty from the onslaught of violent nationalism.

"Today, we may have to do so again against those who have attacked our people and culture."

We can now name him as the masked man after learning that vocal recognition experts in England have forensically matched the pitch and tone of his voice to that of the balaclava wearing UVF mouthpiece.

They matched the masked terrorist's words to recent public speeches Winkie made at the loyalist Twaddell Avenue protest in north Belfast when he stood next to DUP Minister Nelson McCausland and Orange Order leaders. He was back there yesterday where we pictured him in conversation with UVF chief Harry Stockman.

Winkie -- who was left reeling after BBC Spotlight named him as a UVF commander last Tuesday night -- refused to respond to Sunday Life questions on the subject.

We wanted to know if he would rebuff claims from voice recognition experts that he was the man behind the mask.

But our interview requests were met with with a wall of silence.

Last night Winkie was facing further turmoil when a victims' campaigner made complaints about him to the PSNI and Policing Board -- which appointed him to the North Belfast PCSP and pays his wages.

Raymond McCord has called for the loyalist to be kicked out of the group over his UVF links.

The campaigning dad -- whose son was murdered by the terror gang -- also wants Winkie arrested for throwing a beer crate at nationalists during sectarian clashes in 2005 at the Ardoyne shops.

Despite police being aware for EIGHT years of a picture that clearly shows him rioting he has never been charged.

Raymond McCord said: "I've put in a complaint with the Policing Board about Winkie Irvine's involvement in the North Belfast PSCP.

"It's disgraceful that a UVF commander is being paid taxpayers' money to sit down with police chiefs to talk about community safety."

"I've also complained to Chief Constable Matt Baggott's office about the PSNI's failure to arrest Winkie for throwing a crate during a sectarian riot," added Raymond.

"In the past year alone dozens of people, loyalists and republicans, have been jailed for rioting here.

"Why has Winkie not been charged even though there is a photo?

"I am now also aware that he has been identified by voice recognition experts as the masked UVF man making a speech in the 'Loyalists' documentary.

"The PSNI has all the evidence it needs, if no action is taken I will be making a complaint to the Police Ombudsman about him being protected."

A Policing Board spokeswoman confirmed it was investgiating whether it had breached its own guidelines by appointing Winkie Irvine to the North Belfast PCSP.

A PSNI spokesman said: "The Chief Constable's office was contacted by an individual who informed the office he had raised concerns with the Policing Board on the back of the recent Spotlight programme."

Numerous loyalist sources have told Sunday Life that Winkie Irvine has been a member of the UVF since the early 1990s.

At the time of the September 1998 filming of award-winning journalist Peter Taylor's 'Loyalists' documentary he was quickly rising through the terror gang's ranks.

The speech a masked Winkie was recorded making was at a commemoration for Brian Robinson -- the UVF gunman shot dead by undercover soldiers in 1989 while escaping from the murder of Catholic Paddy McKenna.

Every year loyalists hold a huge parade in honour of him around his native Shankill Road. Winkie -- who was Robinson's brother-in-law -- now oversees the event on behalf of the UVF.

Cathy McIlvenny, whose nephew Craig McCausland was murdered by the terror gang in 2005, says she has known Winkie as a UVF chief for years.

She explained how in 2002 Craig was given a 'punishment' shooting by the UVF for alleged anti-social behaviour.

Cathy says that Winkie told her not to worry as her young relative would only receive a flesh wound to the calf. She claims he spoke to her in his capacity as the UVF's 'B' Company commander for the Woodvale area.

Winkie first made a name for himself among loyalists in 2000 when he grabbed an LVF flag from a band taking part in a UDA parade along the Shankill Road.

This action led to Johnny Adair's UDA C Company shooting up the Rex Bar -- an attack that sparked a bloody feud with the UVF that claimed seven lives and resulted in dozens of people being put out of their homes.

In 2005 Winkie again came to the attention of the media through his prominent role in protests against Orangemen being banned from parading on the Springfield Road.

Loyalist gunmen fired shots at police during the intense rioting that followed.

In a bid to quell further trouble the North and West Belfast Parades Forum was established to talk to nationalists about contentious marches. Winkie was soon elevated to the position of spokesman for the group.

Since then he has featured regularly in the press and was last year named PUP media director following the party's restructuring.

Winkie prides himself on being approachable and easy to reach -- but since BBC Spotlight outed him as leading a double life as community worker and UVF commander he has been unusually quiet.

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has offered his support to Winkie in the wake of the revelations and praised his "peace-building" work.

He said: "Winston is committed to community development and peace-building and his ongoing work in the north Belfast area and elsewhere is to be congratulated, and he sets and example for others to follow.

"If peace is to work we need to get behind those who are working daily to reconcile communities and overcome conflict while also addressing the complex social issues they face."

CAPTION: WINSTON 'WINKIE' IRVINE IN HIS BALACLAVA, WINKIE RIOTING AT THE ARDOYNE SHOPS IN 2005 (RIGHT), WITH NELSON McCAUSLAND (ABOVE LEFT), RAYMOND McCORD (LEFT) AND CATHY McILVENNY (LEFT)

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