Loyalists 'Losing Faith' in Peace Process, Says Leader

By O'reilly, Ruth; Parkin, Chris | The Birmingham Post (England), August 11, 1998 | Go to article overview

Loyalists 'Losing Faith' in Peace Process, Says Leader


O'reilly, Ruth, Parkin, Chris, The Birmingham Post (England)


A leading loyalist yesterday told the Northern Ireland Security Minister his supporters were losing faith in the peace process.

Assembly member Mr Billy Hutchinson emerged from talks with Mr Adam Ingram claiming that loyalists were angry because they believed the process was weighted towards republicans.

"The perception in my community is republicans are getting everything and unionists are getting nothing," he said.

"It's not just on prisoners - it's the wider issues in terms of funding the community groups, creation of jobs in local working class areas, Protestant areas."

Mr Hutchinson, of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force paramilitaries, said attempts to explain away the imbalances were falling on deaf ears in the loyalist community.

"The perception is that it is happening and the reality is that it does happen. And what I'd be concerned about is that people lose faith in this agreement because of it."

Yesterday's meeting was held against the backdrop of a declaration by the breakaway terror group the LVF that its war is over for good.

It also comes after angry skirmishes at Saturday's Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry, in which 10 police officers were injured, one seriously.

Mr Hutchinson has threatened that his party will rethink its position unless the Government gives more consideration to loyalists.

He said before yesterday's talks that he suspected the LVF move was a cynical ploy to take advantage of the prisoner release scheme. But he wanted to see urgent movement to address issues of concerns to mainstream loyalists.

Mr Ingram spent an hour talking to Mr Hutchinson and the Progressive Unionist prisons spokesman, Mr William Smyth.

Mr Hutchinson had claimed prisoner releases were moving too slowly and that loyalists in Scottish and English jails were not benefiting from the programme.

He was also unhappy about restrictions placed on parolees. Last Thursday a Loyalist prisoner lost a High Court attempt to overturn rules preventing him making public appearances and political statements while on parole. …

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