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Statement by Dawn Purvis, then leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), (27 June 2009)

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Text: Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) ... Page compiled: Martin Melaugh

Statement by Dawn Purvis, then leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), on Decommissioning by the UVF, (27 June 2009)


"This is a truly momentous day in the history of progressive loyalism.  The decommissioning of all weapons by the UVF and RHC shows that peaceful, stable, inclusive democracy is the way forward for our country.  For those involved, decommissioning was a process, carefully managed and brought to fruition, not an event, and contrary to some reports, not delivered as a result of two meetings in the space of nine months.

The credit for delivering lies with the UVF and the RHC.  The Progressive Unionist Party has, through its leadership and Executive Committee provided support and encouragement where necessary and particularly by my Executive colleague Billy Hutchinson, who acting as interlocutor to the IICD, has helped to manage this process every step of the way.

Billy and our Party President Hugh Smyth along with other Progressive Unionists not with us here, have laid the foundations for the UVF and RHC announcement today.  And I would like to take a few minutes to pay tribute to them.

On 12th July 1977, Gusty Spence said, “It is fear that makes one people oppress another, and until such times as we abolish fear in our society we are always going to have oppression and misguided persons to implement it…the fears of the [Roman] Catholics will not go away because a bunch of bigoted unionist politicians say so…do they not realise that the IRA was a natural manifestation of Catholic fears just as the UVF/UDA were born from loyalist fear?  We in Northern Ireland are plagued with super-[loyalists] Prods who are not content to be ordinary.  These people are the witch-hunters – Ulster’s Senator McCarthys – who enter debate and the newspaper columns armed with the tar brush, the innuendo, the lie, and you will find that they can usually shout louder than most.  If one does not agree with their bigoted and fascist views then one is a ‘taig lover’ at best or a ‘communist’ at worst.  They are adept at labelling those who disagree with them…Eventually loyalist and republican must sit down together for the good of our country if we claim to be patriots.” Gusty’s influence on progressive loyalism is clear.

Hugh Smyth, Billy McCaughey, Billy Mitchell and Jim McDonald who sadly passed away only a few weeks ago were instrumental in shaping the politics of progressive loyalism and the principles and policies of the Progressive Unionist Party including, our Sharing Responsibility document that, although rejected by Paisley and Molyneaux, became the blueprint for the Good Friday Agreement; our socialist principles concerned with addressing the plight of the working class people alongside conflict transformation; advocating dialogue as the way forward, transforming the conflict into peace and transforming our communities in the same process.

Our key influencer in that transformation process was David Ervine, still sadly missed by us all.  David believed in doing the right things at the right time in the peace process, in order to help and assist that process to move forward.  He would certainly agree that this is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.  He thought about the peace process all the time, how to manage it, how to keep it on track, how to help guide people and advise people, while all the time having a vision of Northern Ireland at peace with itself, with stable, inclusive democracy delivering for all of its people. 

David saw it coming and a few months before he died he wrote these words…and I would like to thank Jeanette for allowing me to quote from his unpublished thoughts…”The war is over, given that is so manifestly the case then there are consequences that follow, how does one sustain an army and justify that army’s existence against a backdrop where evermore the populace feel less dependent upon the services of that army.  The enemy is not now to be feared…The consequences of this is decommissioning and the dissolution of paramilitary structures.  It is time to move on, to speed the day when we come of age as a people.”

Peaceful, stable democracy is the way forward for Northern Ireland and the Progressive Unionist Party will, through local councils and Assembly, with the help of the electorate, continue to build peace and represent the interests of the working class people."


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