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Last Updated: Monday, 8 January 2007, 17:27 GMT
Death will leave void in loyalism
Vincent Kearney
Home affairs correspondent

David Ervine was the public face and voice of the UVF for more than a decade.

He stunned many critics and opponents when he was elected to Belfast City Council in 1997.

Three years earlier, he had played a crucial role in persuading the UVF to declare a ceasefire.

David Ervine
David Ervine died in hospital on Monday

He was part of the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and was elected to the assembly the same year.

While he was an outspoken critic of violence in recent years, he had been a member of the UVF and admitted that he was prepared to kill.

The event he said made him decide to become a loyalist paramilitary was when the IRA killed nine people in July 1972, in what became known as Bloody Friday.

In 1974, he was sentenced to 11 years in jail after being caught driving a car bomb. It was in the Maze prison that he developed the interest in politics that would make him a pivotal figure in the UVF's decision to declare a ceasefire.

As leader of the Progressive Unionist Party for the past five years, government and loyalist sources say he played a vital role in calming the loyalist community, and in keeping the UVF on the political path.

But he wasn't entirely successful. Almost 13 years after declaring its ceasefire, the UVF has still not decommissioned weapons and the organisation has been involved in sporadic outbursts of violence.

UVF mural
Mr Ervine helped bring about the UVF ceasefire

Last year he was at the centre of controversy when he joined the Ulster Unionist assembly group in the assembly - a decision which he said could have cost Sinn Fein a ministerial seat.

The move was later ruled out of order - prompting an angry response from Mr Ervine to those who opposed it.

But while he opposed them politically, he also reached out to republicans including going with Sinn Fein's Tom Hartley on a visit to the site of the battle of the Somme.

David Ervine made the personal journey from paramilitary activity to politics and helped persuade others to do the same.

He was one of loyalism's most articulate and best known voices.

His death will undoubtedly leave a void in loyalist politics.

PUP leader's death will leave void in loyalist politics

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