Hypocrisy as UVF allies with UUP
The main political representative of the unionist paramilitary UVF has
joined the assembly group of the Ulster Unionist Party in a move
described both by nationalists and rival unionists as "breathtaking
The tactical ploy by the Ulster Unionists is intended to gain an extra
minister under the d'Hondt formula at the expense of Sinn Fein.
Mr Ervine remains leader of the PUP but his move gives the Ulster
Unionists 25 assembly members - meaning they would be able to claim
three ministries if and when an executive is formed.
Sinn Fein, which has 24 assembly members, would be eligible for just
two ministries plus the post of deputy first minister.
Mr Ervine's positioning in the assembly also means that the Ulster
Unionists will be called ahead of Sinn Fein in terms of speaking
He and UUP leader Reg Empey justified the move by pointing out that any
executive formed in Belfast would now have a unionist majority, with
seven unionists to five nationalists.
Belfast man Gerard McErlean, who lost two brothers to two UVF gunmen on
May 23, 1975, said the move showed the UUP's past position on refusing
to deal with republicans unless the IRA decommissioned its weapons to
be "one-sided" and devoid of principle.
He questioned whether the UUP was now to be considered the political
representatives of the UVF.
"This move is a farce. Are we to use the phrase UUP/UVF when describing
their Stormont team?
"The last Stormont executive was collapsed because Ulster Unionists
threatened to walk due to the alleged republican spy ring. They said
they couldn't, in principle, deal with active paramilitaries.
"It seems the party never ascribed to that principle and it is clear
all they want is power. They've shown sickening expediency and double
Ray McCord Sr, whose son was beaten to death by UVF members and dumped
in a quarry on the outskirts of North Belfast in 1997, said the UUP had
shown "total hypocrisy" by bringing Mr Ervine into the party's
He pointed out that spurious allegations of an IRA "spy ring"
on Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont, Denis Donaldson
[exposed as a British double agent earlier this year] were used by the
UUP to collapse the Assembly in 2002.
"The Ulster Unionists walked out of the assembly three years ago
what the IRA was doing, but the Provos weren't killing Protestants, the
UVF have been," he said.
"I believe unionist politicians have shown no sympathy or any urgency
for bringing people to account for the UVF's silence."
"The reason for his inclusion is for power, to get an extra seat
take a seat away from Sinn Fein. That's not satisfactory."
Speaking outside the chamber afterwards SDLP leader Mark Durkan,
accused the Ulster Unionists of hypocrisy.
Branding the move as "a stroke too far", he added: "Never
again can the
UUP use allegations of IRA paramilitary activity as an excuse not to go
into government without being asked to answer for the UVF."