Belfast Telegraph

David Ervine's widow pleads for Northern Ireland parties to 'engage and find solutions' to impasse

Jeanette Ervine
Jeanette Ervine
David Ervine
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The widow of a former PUP leader who helped deliver the 1994 loyalist ceasefire has called on today's politicians to follow in her husband's footsteps and work to find solutions.

Jeanette Ervine, whose late husband David Ervine led the party for five years, was speaking as the 25th anniversary of the IRA ceasefire is marked tomorrow.

Mr Ervine was part of the Combined Loyalist Military Command, which included the UDA, UVF and the Red Hand Commando, as it announced the loyalist ceasefire in response to the IRA in October of that year.

Both ceasefires helped to pave the way for the Good Friday Agreement.

Mrs Ervine stressed that after living through a time of great compromise on all sides, the current political leaders have a duty "to engage and work" to find solutions.

Nearly three years after the collapse of Stormont, and with talks on restoring government continuing to stall, Mrs Ervine spoke to the BBC of the sacrifices made to achieve peace.

Mr Ervine, a convicted UVF bomber, died in January 2007 and his widow says she can now see parallels between negotiations leading up to the ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement and what needs to happen in Northern Ireland today.

She also questioned whether pursuing historical investigations was the right policy, saying something has to be done to prevent prosecutions.

"At the time of the Good Friday Agreement the Government said 'release those prisoners'. And some people didn't like it," she said.

"But that was part of the Good Friday Agreement, that those prisoners would be released.

"There wasn't a clause to say when they're 60, 70 years old we're going to come back and convict them and put them back in there for the rest of their days."

When asked if she would call for an amnesty for Troubles-related prosecutions, she replied: "We need something.

"I wish I knew. But I feel it's up to our politicians, if they ever engage and work.

"They need to start working that out.

"I can feel for the victims of the Troubles, but I don't think that bringing somebody back to prison is going to do any good.

"These people are already hurting and I don't think that will salve that."

A former Maze prisoner and a protege of former UVF leader Gusty Spence, Ervine later went on to become leader of the PUP in 2002.

He was a constant voice that urged loyalists to turn away from violence.

Ervine is best remembered for his rhetoric which captured the hope for progress.

He once said: "We can fight all day and all night.

"But at the end of the day, all that does is create victims and greater bitterness and greater anger and we have a hamster-wheel cycle of continuum of violence and hatred and bitterness."

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