N. Ireland Politics

Dawn fades on PUP election hopes

Dawn Purvis
Image caption Dawn Purvis has resigned as PUP leader

So it's goodbye from Dawn Purvis to the PUP.

But is it farewell to Dawn or the PUP come election time? Will the UVF-linked party go the way of the UDA-linked one and disband?

With the UDP it was the paramilitary wing that decided to disband the political party.

It went against the grain somewhat at the time as the IRA headed towards decommissioning and eventual inaction. Loyalism doesn't like to follow the crowd.

The UVF, it seems, is on a similar course.

No longer heeding Dawn Purvis's political advice, she has decided that she can no longer be an apologist for a murderous organisation.

Without Ms Purvis - the able successor to David Ervine - it's hard to see the PUP surviving in the long term.

Does that put Dawn Purvis's Assembly seat in jeopardy?

Without the "organisation" behind her will she be able to deliver the votes next May?

Or was the UVF more hindrance than help over the years? Were those 3000 first preference votes in 2007 owned by the UVF, or were they personal votes for Dawn Purvis and David Ervine before her?

With talk of loyalists organising for Naomi Long in East Belfast at Westminster, the joke in political circles has been that the UVF elected the first Alliance MP. Funny, but is it accurate?

My own guess is that you can overestimate the value of the "organisation".

I remember talking to a loyalist representative after an appalling election result. "Bloody hell," he said (or words to that effect) "I had more people working for me than voting for me."

It sums up the problem for loyalist parties.

'Poison'

The association with the paramilitary groups is poison. Those groups wield power.

They are consulted by legitimate agencies and individuals. They act as proxy representatives for "their" community. But they're not loved. In fact, they're loathed in large measure.

Witness the crowds at Bobby Moffett's funeral.

With television cameras rolling and in the face of widespread threats and intimidation the mourners turned out en masse.

So, something's happening within working class unionist communities.

Perhaps the term "loyalist community" can no longer be accurately applied because of the implied connection to paramilitarism.

In East Belfast, they voted for an Alliance MP. In West Belfast they defied UVF threats to show their solidarity with a grieving family.

On Sunday's Politics Show, we hope to explore some of these issues in more detail; as a final decision on the councils' reorganisation nears, Yvette reports on the messy politics behind it and I talk to Environment Minister Poots about his role in the affair.

Jim

PS - It has been noted that the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (not to be confused with the Independent Monitoring Commission, sometimes wrongly described as the International Monitoring Commission), declared last September that it had completed the decommissioning of UVF and Red Hand Commando arms.

So, does last week's murder call into question the decommissioning process itself, and if orders to decommission the commissions were commissioned (as called for by Sinn Fein in relation to the IMC at least) how would we know they'd been successful?

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