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Victims of Troubles express their support for DUP's Emma Pengelly

New DUP MLA for South Belfast Emma Pengelly. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
New DUP MLA for South Belfast Emma Pengelly. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Alan McBride

By Rebecca Black

Troubles victims have expressed their support for new DUP MLA Emma Pengelly after she revealed her father was a loyalist gunrunner.

However, she has been urged to condemn his actions.

Mrs Pengelly, a former special adviser to the First Minister, was unveiled this week as the new MLA in South Belfast to replace veteran Jimmy Spratt.

The Markethill woman revealed in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph that her father Noel Little was a loyalist gunrunner in an Ulster Resistance plot.

But she insisted that he had moved on from those days, adding that having a past did not mean you couldn't have a future.

Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was shot dead by the IRA in 1984, said Mrs Pengelly was not responsible for the actions of her father.

"My attitude is Emma is not responsible for her dad's actions, and considering she was a child at the time, she has every right to be in whatever profession she chooses," she said. "She has done nothing wrong."

Jude Whyte, whose mother Peggy was murdered by loyalists in 1984, said the past should stay in the past. He said: "As a victim of loyalist violence I welcome her into politics. We all have a past and that was then and this is now and we have to move on. All this nonsense about her father's actions in the past has absolutely no reflection on her whatsoever."

Alan McBride, who lost his wife Sharon and father-in-law John Frizzell in the Shankill bomb, supported Mrs Pengelly, but queried the DUP's approach to people with a past. Mr McBride, who worked with Mrs Pengelly when she was an adviser to the First Minister, praised her as having a "good heart and a good head".

"I absolutely agree with Emma on this one, but I will say this in relation to the DUP, they need to make their minds up.

"They cannot have that approach when it comes to the darker aspects of unionism, but not when it comes to republicans," he said.

"I have the greatest respect for Emma. She is a good person with a good head on her shoulders.

"She will be an asset to the DUP. But she is in the DUP. They have an a la carte approach when it comes to deciding who can and can't have a future when it comes to having a past."

Kenny Donaldson from Innocent Victims United said he would prefer to hear Mrs Pengelly state categorically that the actions of her father were wrong.

"Those reading Mrs Pengelly's comments may well remark that the words used are quite reflective, fair and realistic, but, critically, there is a component missing," he said.

"Until this society accepts that whatever 'politicised days' there were, that there was never a justification for the use of terrorism or criminal violence. Only when this happens can genuine reconciliation be delivered within this society."

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey, who was shot by loyalists in 1987, said Ms Pengelly shouldn't be blamed for what her father did.

But he added: "She speaks well of her father but on the same token she speaks rather benignly about her father's history with the Ulster Resistance movement which the DUP have long had an association with. Bearing in mind that the organisation has never decommissioned a single weapon, she speaks benignly about that.

"There would be victims of Ulster Resistance weapons who would have a very different view of that," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph