Belfast Telegraph

Former PUP leader Dawn Purvis says UVF 'doesn't want to go away'

Dawn Purvis (Brian Lawless/PA).
Dawn Purvis (Brian Lawless/PA).

A former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) has said the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is still operating despite claiming it had decommissioned its weapons in 2009.

Dawn Purvis, who led the PUP after the death of David Ervine in 2007, said that the UVF did not trust her when she took over the position.

Speaking on the BBC's Talkback programme Mrs Purvis said: "My relationship with the UVF was different to the relationship that David had with the UVF and that was clear from the start," she explained.

"David came from within, he was one of them."

"He had been a member of the UVF, he had served time as a UVF prisoner, and I was regarded as a woman with no paramilitary history or record - no prison record.

"Therefore, what would I know?

"They didn't trust me, but I made it clear that the relationship I wanted, and the relationship I was there for, was to see through David Ervine's project.

"And that was to bring paramilitarism to an end, and to see the decommissioning of weapons and the disbandment of the UVF."

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David Ervine

The PUP is widely acknowledged as the political wing of the UVF, a loyalist paramilitary group responsible for hundreds of murders during the Troubles.

In 2007 the UVF said the organisation was renouncing violence and would move to decommission its weapons.

Last year the paramilitary group, in a joint statement with the UDA and the Red Hand Commando, said it supported the rule of law and that any members involved in crime would be expelled.

However, last month the PSNI said the group was "flooding the streets of Belfast" with drugs and it understood members of the east Belfast UVF were behind the brutal murder of loyalist Ian Ogle on January 27.

Ms Purvis said: "I truly believed in 2007, when David died and the UVF issued their endgame statement that we were heading in that direction.

"With decommissioning in 2009, I thought: 'Great. The next step is for the UVF to go away and leave the stage.'"

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Armed and masked members of the Ulster Volunteer Force on the Shankill Road.

However, this changed for Ms Purvis after the murder of loyalist Bobby Moffett on the Shankill Road in 2010.

"I realised then that there were people who didn't want to go away," she said.

"They never wanted to leave the stage.

"In the context of their end-game statement, in the context of them having decommissioned weapons the previous year, I thought: 'This is not the way to go. This is not the right way forward. They have just killed off the PUP.'

"I felt, having taken people at their word in 2007, that we were working towards this, we were going to achieve this - David Ervine's project - but now it was not going to be deliverable.

"Certainly not with me at the head of the PUP," she said.

Ms Purvis resigned from the PUP leadership and remained as an independent MLA until losing her seat in 2011.

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