Since my fact finding mission to Ulster in the Summer of 1993 I have supported the policies of the Progressive Unionist Party and their Paramilitary wing the Ulster Volunteer Force.
Over the past few years I have seen nothing but good coming from the P.U.P. and I believe this is the party that everyone should be voting for if they really seek peace in Ulster.
The Ulster Volunteer Force also deserve some credit for keeping to the Good Friday Agreement despite much provocation by Republicans and a fair bit of condemnation from fellow Loyalists for remaining to that agreement.
Both the P.U.P. and U.V.F. leadership have stood against the grain and made their views perfectly clear regarding sectarianism.
The U.V.F. in 1994 issued this statement:
"In all sincerity we offer to the loved ones of all innocent victims over
the past twenty-five years abject and true remorse.....Let us firmly resolve
to respect our differing views of freedom, culture, and aspiration, and
never again permit our political circumstances to degenerate into bloody
This is just not a recent change of heart by the U.V.F. In a prison interview in 1973 Gusty Spence(Founder of The Modern Day U.V.F.) said these words:
"We are living in the most socially and legalistically oppressive society
in the Western Hemisphere, the manifestations of which are strewn over that
society like scabs. The fears of Roman Catholics will not go away because a
bunch of bigoted Unionist politicians say so, and make no mistake about this
word 'Unionist', because we are Unionists, too, even though we could never
agree with those fascists who hold the reins of power. Do they realize that
the IRA was a natural manifestation of Catholic fears just as the UVF and UDA
were born of Loyalist fear?............All warring factions must put aside
their weapons. Eventually Loyalist and Republican must sit down together
for the good of the country."
Those last words by Gusty Spence say it all really because now is the time for every Loyalist and Republican to sit down. Despite what the knockers may say the violence from Ulster must never be allowed to rear its ugly head again.
The P.U.P. as a political party are small in Ulster and because some of their members call themselves 'Social Democrats' should they really be ignored because they don't follow the politics usually associated with Loyalism?
I believe the P.U.P. have the best interests in Ulster simply because they look at things objectively rather than just blaming the other side for the problems in Ulster. The P.U.P. accept their has been casualties and pain on both sides and have the following statement called 'Victims' in their manifesto.
The Progressive Unionist Party believes that the progress towards peace and reconciliation must include realistic measures to assist the people of Northern Ireland to find healing for the scars and hurts, both physical and psychological, that have been inflicted upon both sections of our divided community over the past twenty-five years. Genuine concern for healing in the community will lead us to acknowledge that no one section of the community has the sole right to claim the title "victim" and that no one section of the community ought to be branded forever as the sole perpetrators of wrongdoing.
The party believes that we must seek to engage victims and their representatives in the whole healing process and that the definition of "victimhood" must be all inclusive. We reject the notion that so-called provocative and precipitative victims and their relatives should be treated less favourably than the so-called "innocent" or "unrelated" victims and insist that the term "victim" must be inclusive of all persons who have suffered directly or indirectly during the past twenty-five years of armed conflict and political violence.
We recognise that each victim is unique and that consequently each individual victim must be recognised as an individual and his/her needs must be addressed individually. To this end we believe that community-based victim support groups, staffed and managed by victims and their confidants, are the best vehicle to articulate the fears and feelings of their own people and to deliver the services and resources most appropriate to their needs. Such groups must be given the same kind and degree of recognition, support and financial assistance as those statutory and professional agencies which pay lip service to the task of supporting and representing victims.
Not only that but members of the P.U.P. have been doing their best to bring their communities together as a whole rather than keep the divisions up between Protestants and Catholics.
Here is the story of Billy Mitchell(P.U.P. and Ex U.V.F. Member) to show what can happen if people are prepared to break down the barriers between The Protestant and Catholic Communities in Ulster:
The story of Tommy McKearney and Billy Mitchell has a brutal
beginning, and a happy ending.
Once, they would have killed each other, now they work together.
McKearney is an ex-IRA man, and a former life sentence prisoner.
Mitchell used to be in the UVF, and went to jail for murder.
They bumped into each other towards the end of their prison sentences.
Now they see each other regularly, at editorial meetings of the magazine
they produce together.
They disagree sometimes, but they don't need guns to resolve their
Unfortunately, both men know all about weapons.
Both men are now working on a cross-community magazine
McKearney was involved in the killing of a part-time soldier, shot
dead as he delivered letters on his morning post round.
Mitchell was part of a gang that murdered two men during a feud
between rival loyalist paramilitary groups. The men were killed beside two
shallow graves which had already been dug.
Sentenced to life, both men ended up serving 16 years. McKearney was
involved in the so-called dirty protest while in the H-Blocks of the Maze
Prison. He went on hunger-strike for 53 days, and nearly died.
Last month, Mitchell and McKearney went back to the Maze. This time,
they were visitors not inmates.
They agreed to take part in a BBC documentary entitled 'Life after
Life', and the interviews for the programme took place in an H-Block cell.
The jail is now unoccupied, but the authorities needed a lot of
persuasion to allow the two former prisoners back in.
It's a source of regret that the conflict happened, that people
in both communities were forced to take up weapons.
In the end, the Northern Ireland Office agreed.
McKearney and Mitchell arrived with mixed emotions - intrigued to see
the place again, disturbed by the memories it brought back.
Twenty years ago, no-one would have guessed that McKearney, a
fanatical republican, would be back in prison one day with Mitchell, a
die-hard loyalist, walking down a corridor like old friends.
But there were serious topics to talk about. Did they regret what they
did? How did they respond to the view that they should have been locked up
And what about their own relationship - can a loyalist and a
republican ever trust each other?
Mitchell tackled the issue of regret.
"It's a source of regret that the conflict happened, that people in
both communities were forced to take up weapons. But in 1969 someone didn't
drive over Northern Ireland and drop laughing gas or crazy gas.
Both men served 16 years at the Maze prison for their crimes
"The seeds of the conflict were here eating away at our society."
Looking over at McKearney, he said: "We were the end product of the
malaise that was in our society. So I regret that that happened and that a
conflict had to take place."
McKearney added: "I personally have a great understanding of the
trauma people go through losing loved ones. Three of my brothers died in the
course of this conflict."
One of those brothers was killed by the UVF, the group in which
Mitchell used to be a commander.
So do they trust each other?
"I wouldn't work with him if I didn't," said McKearney. Mitchell
What makes this particularly surprising is that McKearney is a
republican hardliner, and unlike members of Sinn Fein, he is opposed to the
Good Friday Agreement.
I personally have a great understanding of the trauma people go
through losing loved ones.
Mitchell, a born-again Christian and member of the loyalist
Progressive Unionist Party, supports the Agreement.
"I can trust Tommy to be a republican, " he said.
"I can't trust Sinn Fein to be republicans. They've converted to
Catholic nationalism. Those who fought for 25 years to undermine the British
state are now administering British rule in Ireland. I can't trust that sort
Through the magazine 'The Other View', the two men develop their
political thinking. Other ex-prisoners are also involved in the project.
Their efforts were recently marked by the charity Co-operation
Ireland, with the presentation of a special award.
Tommy McKearney and Billy Mitchell can never escape their past. Not
surpisingly, they prefer to talk about their future.
It's easy to be cynical about their partnership, but at a time when
Northern Ireland's politicians seem to be drifting further apart, the coming
together of McKearney and Mitchell is a small step in the right direction.
It also must be pointed out that this is not just a unique venture by one man from the P.U.P. As an organisation the P.U.P. have made a stand on the issue of sectarianism:
The Progressive Unionist Party is committed to working for the establishment of a just, equitable and pluralist society in Northern Ireland. To this end the party is endeavouring to facilitate the social, economic and cultural transformation of the Province. The first prerequisite for a just and equitable society is mutuality, and the Progressive Unionist Party positively upholds the right of each individual regardless of gender, race, colour, religion, political opinion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, prison record or social background to be treated with equality, dignity and justice in all aspects and spheres of human life. The party is committed to campaigning for a written Constitution for Northern Ireland that will embody a Bill of Rights along the lines of the European Convention on Human Rights. Such a Bill of Rights would include guarantees against discrimination. In order to ensure a working of the system in both minority and majority interests there should be a broad committee of eight judges - two from the United Kingdom, two from the Republic of Ireland, two from Northern Ireland and two from the European Courts - to oversee any Bill of Rights. The party also calls for a local office in Belfast where Human Rights issues could be discussed with some urgency, with a view to local conciliation, in much the same way that the Labour Relations Agency is able to conciliate in a reasonable time on matters of importance in the commercial and industrial areas. Human Rights issues, in particular those surrounding Courts and Court procedures, could be handled with a greater urgency and in so doing prevent local conflict on serious issues.
The P.U.P. even despite the recent attempted abduction of one of it's members Billy Hutchinson called for calm and no retaliations to take place against Republicans just shows how serious they are at ending the conflict in Ulster.
These are just some of the reasons why I believe the P.U.P. and U..V.F are the way forward in Ulster. There has been enough bloodshed spilt on both sides of the fence and both organisations who are Pro Working Class realise this.
They live in amongst the communities they serve unlike the likes of Trimble and Adams and I believe they serve their communities well.
One man from the U.V.F. commited suicide because he could not live with his conscience after murdering a Catholic despite serving nearly 20 years in prison for that crime. His suicide note showed his remorse and he wanted people to fight for peace.
Another U.V.F. man also stated on TV that he hoped one day that he could have a drink down the Falls Road.
Now isn't this paving the way forward to peace in Ulster?
My message to both The Loyalists and Republicans who keep the fences up between both communities is please read the above and see if you cannot do a bit of soul searching and ask yourselves do you really want this pointless and bitter war to carry on?
For more information about the P.U.P. please follow this link: www.pup-ni.org.uk
But the last words go to Gusty Spence. They've been repeated here and been repeated in many other articles regards Ulster but these words have yet to be taken heed of by both sides of the community in Ulster.
"Eventually Loyalist and Republican must sit down together
for the good of the country."