Northern Ireland

How links to the past ended leader's link with PUP

Dawn Purvis

Dawn Purvis was born in the Donegall Pass area of south Belfast in 1967.

She joined the Progressive Unionist Party in 1994.

She held a number of positions, including chairperson, chair of the Women's Commission and spokesperson on Equality.

In the 2001 General Election, she stood in Belfast South, finishing in sixth place with a total of 1,112 votes.

During the run-up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Ms Purvis was talks coordinator for the PUP at the multi-party talks.

She was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in March 2007. Ms Purvis publicised her own campaign as a "new dawn" for east Belfast.

She is the only member of the PUP to have been elected to the assembly.

In the same year, she was elected leader of the PUP following the death of David Ervine.

In April 2006 she was appointed as an independent member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and held this position until her election to the assembly.

During her time in the assembly, Ms Purvis put forward a bill to end "double jobbing" among NI politicians who serve as both councillors and assembly members.

On the party's website she says that she is committed to assisting working class unionism in playing a constructive and active role in society.

"Every individual on the planet has potential.

"Where I come from, the lack of opportunities mean that many individuals fail to achieve their full potential.

"Our job is to help and encourage them to reach it," she said.

The PUP has long been been viewed as the political wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

The paramilitary group began decommissioning its weapons in June 2009.

The UVF was blamed for the murder of loyalist Bobby Moffett, 43, on the Shankill Road in Belfast on Friday.

Following the murder, Ms Purvis said her party supported the right for people to attend his funeral and called for an end to intimidation on the Shankill Road.

On Thursday she told BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster that she was leaving the party because the PUP was "severely restricted because of its relationship with the Ulster Volunteer Force".

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport said Ms Purvis' resignation was significant.

"Historically, the party has been aligned to the UVF. It is very significant," he said.

"Dawn Purvis was never thought to have the inside track on the paramilitaries that David Ervine had because of his historic track record.

"But she was able to defend his seat. If she has decided she wants to go independent, this presumably would point to the notion that she does believe there is a UVF connection to the shooting."

In a statement, PUP interim leader, Cllr John Kyle paid tribute to Ms Purvis.

"It is with much regret that we lose a great leader and we wish her well in her time in Stormont.

"Her leadership both in the assembly and in the party will be missed," he said.

The PUP will hold an extraordinary general meeting in the coming days to discuss the implications of Ms Purvis's resignation.