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The search for peace
David Ervine
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• Loyalist splinter threat
David Ervine
• Good Friday Agreement


Events Parties and paramilitaries
Piece together the puzzle of the Northern Ireland conflict by clicking the related subjects above.

• Ervine welcomes the ceasefire
• Ervine on the 1995 peace talks

• Progressive Unionist Party

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David Ervine

David Ervine is the chief spokesman for the Progressive Unionist Party, which represents the views of the Protestant paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force.

A Belfast city councillor and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr Ervine previously served a five-year jail sentence in the Maze prison for being stopped in a car containing a bomb. He was released from jail in 1980.

Following the decision of the main Protestant paramilitary organisations to call a ceasefire in 1994, he became a highly influential figure in loyalist politics.

In the past, he was high on an IRA death list and had to move home on a number of occasions. He has also been threatened by loyalist organisations.

While he has argued in favour of compromise with his nationalist opponents, Mr Ervine is passionately opposed to a united Ireland. He believes the loyalist ceasefire depends on the security of Northern Ireland's position within the UK.

Despite many doubts in the Protestant community about the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Ervine has said he believes it represents a good deal for unionism. In the lengthy controversy about the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons, he acknowledged the difficulties faced by the IRA in handing over its guns and explosives. But he also called on the republican organisation to make clear it did not intend to return to war.

Just how far David Ervine has come was graphically illustrated in Peter Taylor's BBC documentary Loyalists, which was broadcast in 1999.

Speaking about his paramilitary past, he was asked: "Were you prepared to kill?", he replied: "Without question ... totally. My decision and made by me and me alone."

As a politician, Mr Ervine has sought to be accepted as a former paramilitary whose words and actions are meant to ensure Northern Ireland does not return to that kind of chilling attitude to violence. But by being so brutally frank about the extremes of opinion and action that Northern Ireland's community has experienced, he appears to be hoping that he can help himself and others to move on.

Following the initial failure to set up the powersharing executive outlined in the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Ervine said he believed the Good Friday Agreement was "breathing its last breath", but he strongly welcomed the breakthrough following the Mitchell Review.

But asked whether any paramilitary groupd would unilaterally give up its weapons, he has a simple answer:

"No. It's a one-word answer, they just won't do it," he told the BBC. "They're not likely to divest themselves of their capacity for resistance unless they believe that the other side are [in it for] real. Unilateral disarmament in Northern Ireland is just not going to happen."

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