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New PUP leader hails party unity

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Dawn Purvis was succeeded by Brian Ervine as leader of the Progressive Unionist Party

Dawn Purvis was succeeded by Brian Ervine as leader of the Progressive Unionist Party

Dawn Purvis was succeeded by Brian Ervine as leader of the Progressive Unionist Party

The new leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) has insisted the party's members are more united than ever.

Teacher Brian Ervine was elected to follow in the footsteps of his late brother David, party leader when he died more than three years ago.

Mr Ervine admitted the PUP was almost destroyed this summer over its ties with the UVF, which was believed to be behind the murder of Bobby Moffatt on the Shankill Road in June. Condemning the killing, he claimed the political party was stronger than before.

"It's a big job, it's going to be a very difficult job, but I'm looking forward to the challenge," said Mr Ervine.

The party's last leader, Dawn Purvis, resigned from the PUP after Mr Moffatt's killing. Mr Ervine said several other executive members also walked out, but maintained those left behind were determined to succeed. "We have formed a new executive and we have actually had more people join the party recently than left," he said.

Mr Ervine also defended his decision to support the retention of links with the UVF. He said progressive elements in the group had put mechanisms in place to ensure incidents, like Mr Moffatt's killing, do not happen again.

He said: "I'm happy to work with anybody, I'll talk to provos, I'll talk to dissidents, I'll talk to Uncle Tom Cobley and all, if it furthers the quality of life for the people of Northern Ireland, Ireland and all these islands."

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Elsewhere the 59-year-old said the party was now concentrating on winning seats in the forthcoming Assembly and local government elections. He intends to stand as an MLA for East Belfast. Mr Ervine said he appreciates his brother's legacy, who he described as planting a tree which produced the fruits of peace. But he maintained he would not be filling his shoes.

"I've a different set of feet and I will be doing my own walking and (my) own talking," Mr Ervine added.

Dr John Kyle had been standing in as interim leader since the resignation of Ms Purvis.


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