Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-01 > 1168778889

From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] ERVINE: David Walter Ervine 8/1/2007
Date: Sun, 14 Jan 2007 04:48:09 -0800

David Ervine
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 09/01/2007

David Ervine, who died yesterday aged 53, was a convicted terrorist who
became leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, widely regarded as the
political voice of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force; as a politician
he was a forceful advocate of the Belfast agreement.

Ervine's supporters saw him as the voice of grassroots loyalists, a
courageous proponent of a paramilitary ceasefire and a flexible and highly
articulate negotiator who represented the real interests and ambitions of
working-class Protestants. His critics - who circulated leaflets identifying
him as an MI5 agent - regarded him as little more than a stooge of the
Northern Ireland Office, which had provided him with media training in order
to promote the peace process and increase pressure on Ian Paisley's
Democratic Unionists (DUP) and the Ulster Unionists (UUP) under James
Molyneaux and, from 1995, David Trimble.

His support was certainly important to the momentum of the Belfast
agreement, and he enjoyed the patronage of, and access to, both John Major
and Tony Blair. He was also well received by the political establishment in
the Republic, and wowed the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.
"We don't want to get up in the morning and say 'Am I British or Irish
today?'" he assured its (largely pro-nationalist) members. "We want to say
'Am I late for work?'" It was typical of the sort of soundbite in which
Ervine specialised, and led to the nickname "Davie Dictionary". Much of his
rhetoric appealed to class, and set the PUP in distinction to mainstream

"As a young man I would not have voted for [them]," he said. "I remember
thinking here is the Orange Order saying we must maintain the Union. Then
they go home to their large houses and we guys go home to a dump." This
romanticised Socialist view, which superseded Unionism's traditional
concerns, came largely as a result of the example of Gusty Spence, the UVF
commander, who was a great influence on Ervine's politics during the 1970s,
when both were in the Maze prison.

David Walter Ervine was born on July 21 1953 in a working-class district of
east Belfast, the son of an iron turner and wartime officer in the Royal
Navy. Davie was the youngest child; half his siblings emigrated to Australia
during the 1960s. He attended Orangefield Boys' Secondary, which he left at
the age of 15 with little in the way of qualifications.

In the early 1970s he became involved with the UVF, claiming that he had
been motivated to join after Bloody Friday, the day in 1972 when the IRA
killed nine people and caused enormous damage by detonating a series of 21
bombs in the city centre of Belfast. It was Ervine's 19th birthday.

He was first arrested in 1974, and aged 21 was stopped in a car packed with
explosives. The bomb disposal unit devised an elegant solution to the hazard
by tying a rope around Ervine's ankle, pointing a pistol at him and getting
him to retrieve the bomb. He was sentenced to 11 years, of which he served
just over five.

After his release, Ervine opened a newsagents and milk round, but his
involvement with politics led, he claimed, to frequent threats from the IRA,
which forced him to give up the business and move house four times.
Thereafter he lived on benefits. When he first stood for Belfast City
Council, in 1985, he scored 394 votes, but he was elected in 1997, largely
as a result of his constant appearances on television.

His first appearance in 1993, in silhouette, and billed as someone with "an
insight into the thinking of loyalist paramilitaries" was soon followed by
more blatant self-promotion. After the UVF ceasefire in late 1994 he often
gave several interviews a day. He was elected to the Assembly as the member
for Belfast East in 1998.

In September last year the Speaker, Eileen Bell, ruled illegal his attempt
to create a UUP-PUP pact.

"When a reasonable scumbag like me can't be in [the] mainstream, how do you
think the others will feel?" he complained.

On Saturday he suffered a heart attack and stroke while watching a football

David Ervine married, in 1972, Jeanette Cunningham, who survives him with
their two sons.

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