The future of the UVF-linked PUP was plunged into fresh doubt last night as interim leader John Kyle revealed he may stand down after the ceasefire monitors’ report on the Bobby Moffett murder.
The Belfast councillor said he was considering his position after the paramilitary watchdog’s verdict that the UVF officially sanctioned the killing this year.
A spate of resignations from the party is also being forecast after the Independent Monitoring Commission said the killing of Mr Moffett was a “public execution” by the loyalist paramilitary group.
The PUP plans a special behind-closed-doors conference next month to debate future direction. Mr Kyle said he will have to make a personal decision before then on whether to remain or resign.
Mr Kyle said it was “in many respects a damning” report but it had also acknowledged the positive influence of the PUP.
“We are a small party, perhaps our influence is not as great as at the time of the Good Friday Agreement but I think it is still a positive influence,” he said.
“The question is really whether the party is strengthened or undermined by our relationship with the UVF.”
It is thought all the party’s executive positions will be vacant for the conference in October.
. The IMC said Mr Moffett’s murder in broad daylight on the Shankill Road was designed to send a message that the UVF’s authority was not to be challenged.
Its report concluded that the killing called into question the UVF’s commitment to becoming a civilian organisation, but said it was not blinded to the progress it has made, and recommended no sanction against the PUP.
Former leader Dawn Purvis resigned after the murder last May and was followed over the summer by Policing Board member David Rose and deputy chairman Tommy Sandford.
Secretary of State Owen Paterson supported the decision not to recommend sanctions but called the death “brutal and shocking”.
But SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie said the IMC's decision “sent out a worrying signal” and asked: “Does that mean a planned killing is to be regarded as par for the course and acceptable?”