Progressive Unionist Party

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For the political group founded in 1938, see Ulster Progressive Unionist Association.
For the Egyptian political group, see National Progressive Unionist Party.
Progressive Unionist Party
Leader Billy Hutchinson
Chairman Brian Lacey
Founded 1979 (1979)
Headquarters 299 Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 1AG,
County Antrim,
Northern Ireland
Ideology British unionism
Democratic socialism[1][2]
Social democracy
Political position Left-wing
Colours Red & blue
Northern Irish seats in the House of Commons
0 / 18
European Parliament (Northern Irish seats)
0 / 3
Northern Ireland Assembly
0 / 108
Local government in Northern Ireland
4 / 462
Website
http://www.pupni.com/
Politics of Northern Ireland
Political parties
Elections

The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is a small unionist political party in Northern Ireland. It was formed from the Independent Unionist Group operating in the Shankill area of Belfast, becoming the PUP in 1979. Linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), it was for a time the only left-wing party of unionism in Northern Ireland, with its main support base in the loyalist working class communities of Belfast.[3]

Party Leaders[edit]

Leader From To
1 Hugh Smyth 1979 2002
2 David Ervine 2002 2007
3 Dawn Purvis 2007 2010
4 Brian Ervine 2010 2011
5 Billy Hutchinson 2011 Incumbent

History[edit]

The party has had a degree of electoral success. In 1994 PUP leader Hugh Smyth became Lord Mayor of Belfast, and in the 1996 elections to the Northern Ireland Forum they secured two seats, with Smyth and David Ervine both being elected. The PUP supported the Belfast Agreement and in the 1998 election to the Northern Ireland Assembly they also won two seats, with representatives Billy Hutchinson and David Ervine elected from the Belfast North and East constituencies respectively, though they proceeded to lose one in the 2003 election, leaving Ervine as their sole Assembly representative. This was followed by a poor showing in the Northern Ireland local election of 2005, where Smyth and Ervine were their only two members to retain their seats on local authorities, and the party now seems to be in a state of decline.

Their position on the left of the political spectrum differentiates them from the other unionist parties (such as the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party) which are ideologically conservative.[citation needed]

Following an intra-loyalist feud between the UVF and Loyalist Volunteer Force, in which four men were murdered by the UVF in Belfast, after which recognition of the UVF's ceasefire was withdrawn by the British government, the PUP debated ending its "special relationship" with the UVF but this was defeated in a closed vote at the party's annual conference in October 2005.

In March 2006, the Chairman of the PUP, Dawn Purvis, a research associate at the University of Ulster was appointed as an independent member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

David Ervine died following a heart attack on 8 January 2007. On 22 January 2007 Dawn Purvis was chosen as party leader.[4] She is the first woman to lead a unionist party in Northern Ireland with the exception of Anne Dickson's short-lived leadership of the Unionist Party of Northern Ireland after Brian Faulkner's retirement. Dr John Kyle was co-opted on to Belfast City Council to fill Ervine's seat. The party did not field any candidates for the 2010 general elections. Party members were encouraged to vote for a candidate of their choice.

Assembly elections, March 2007[edit]

The election was for 108 seats spread evenly across 18 constituencies.

The PUP fielded 3 candidates: Elaine Martin in North Down, Andrew Park in Belfast South and Dawn Purvis in Belfast East. Overall the party polled 3,822 votes or 0.6% of the votes cast in Northern Ireland, down 0.6% from the Elections of 2003.

Dawn Purvis was elected to represent Belfast East polling 3,045 votes (10.3%), finishing 5th out of the 15 candidates.

Retention of weapons, May 2007 and UVF decommissioning[edit]

On 3 May 2007 Gusty Spence read out the statement by the Ulster Volunteer Force announcing it will keep its weapons and a warning that activities could "provoke another generation of loyalists toward armed resistance".

However, the arms decommissioning body has said this did not meet the requirements set out in government legislation. The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) urged the UVF to work with it to destroy its weaponry.

It said it welcomed the statement, but was "concerned by their intention to deal with their arms without the involvement of the IICD".

In 2009 the UVF fully decommissioned all their weapons under the supervision of the IICD.

2010 resignations[edit]

In June 2010, Dawn Purvis resigned as leader, and as a member, of the party because of its relationship with the UVF and a recent murder attributed to that group.[5] On 28 August 2010 the former deputy leader, David Rose, resigned from the party. He cited the recent murder attributed to the UVF and his belief that the party was "becoming increasingly conservative in outlook.[6]

Recent Activity[edit]

During a meeting in Belfast on 29 September 2010, members of the party agreed to maintain its relationship with the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando.[7]

Assembly elections, May 2011[edit]

The election was for 108 seats spread evenly across 18 constituencies. The party failed to regain the East Belfast seat and are unrepresented in the Assembly. Leader Brian Ervine resigned soon after the election and was replaced by veteran west Belfast activist Billy Hutchinson in October 2011.[8]

Notable members[edit]

Former UVF member Billy Giles, whose biography is told in the first chapter of journalist Peter Taylor's book Loyalists, having spent 14 years in the Maze Prison for a sectarian killing, was part of PUP's negotiating team at the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998.[9] Others involved in this process included Billy Mitchell, Winston Churchill Rea and William "Plum" Smyth; all former UVF and Red Hand Commando members.

Electoral performance[edit]

1997 UK general election[edit]

Constituency Candidate Votes  % Position
Belfast South Ervine, DavidDavid Ervine 5,687 14.4 3
East Antrim Donaldson, BillyBilly Donaldson 1,757 5.1 5
South Antrim Smyth, HughHugh Smyth 3,490 9.0 4

2001 UK general election[edit]

Constituency Candidate Votes  % Position
Belfast East Ervine, DavidDavid Ervine 3,669 10.0 4
Belfast South Purvis, DawnDawn Purvis 1,112 2.9 6

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Edwards, Aaron (2007). "Democratic Socialism and Sectarianism: The Northern Ireland Labour Party and Progressive Unionist Party Compared". Politics 27 (1): 24–31. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9256.2007.00275.x. 
  2. ^ New Statesman: Volume 131, Issues 4569-4576. London: New Statesman. 2002. p. 56. 
  3. ^ "Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) - Your Questions". Pup-ni.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-15. [dead link]
  4. ^ New PUP leader seeks Ervine seat, BBC News, 23 January 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  5. ^ "Purvis quits PUP over murder of loyalist Moffett". BBC News. 2010-06-03. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  6. ^ "Leading PUP member, David Rose, quits party". BBC News. 2010-08-28. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  7. ^ Citation needed.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Hutchinson elected PUP leader
  9. ^ Taylor, Peter (1999). Loyalists. London: Bloomsbury. p.8

External links[edit]

Previous logos of the Progressive Unionist Party[edit]