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My Life in Loyalism

My Life in Loyalism

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Anything less would not only be a disservice to their constituents, but [also] a grave misstep in the history of our beloved Northern Ireland and its place within the Union. Hutchinson maintained a high level of fitness while in prison, running 15 miles a day inside the perimeter of his compound. Unlike 1998, it won’t be a role which is internal to the talks, but nevertheless the loyalist voice is an important one and I have no doubt that there will be an effort to persuade loyalism to adopt a position favourable to the proposed deal.

Hutchinson had already known Spence as the two had spoken on a few occasions during 1972 when Spence, aided by his nephew Frankie Curry, had escaped from prison for a few months. In 1974, at the age of just 19, he was sentenced to life in prison, and it was in the cages of Long Kesh that he first came under the influence of loyalist icon Gusty Spence. Loyalists will be faced with elements of political unionism in the Assembly coming along and presenting, in the most favourable light, the proposed deal.

I saw an 18-month-old baby, I knew him, but I didn’t know it was him at the time, and whenever the ambulance people were picking up the body parts it was a clear plastic bag .

The greatest example, identified in recent years prior to his passing by Lord Trimble, was that the principle of consent was presented in the political text and much public spin as meaning a cast-iron protection against any diminution of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as part of the Union, but in the legal text- as we discovered in recent years with the subjugation of the Acts of Union- it in fact turned out that, legally, it meant much less. He was a leading member of the Progressive Unionist Party and involved in talks culminating in the Belfast Agreement. The councillors all sit in committees, the committees meet, make decisions and those decisions come to full council and the final decision is made there. Mr Hutchinson said: “I have always argued that the Good Friday Agreement was never implemented in full, we don’t know what would have happened if it had been. Love, loathe, admire or condemn him, there is no escaping Hutchinson's place in the loyalist history of Northern Ireland.In October 2007 Hutchinson was arrested in connection with the August 2005 murder of Catholic teenager Thomas Devlin. Before this, he had been a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and was a founder of their youth wing, the Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV). This arrangement did not last long, as the UVF prisoners had grown tired of the strict disciplinary regime initiated by Spence which Hutchinson attempted to continue. The aftermath of Brexit will increase the importance of understanding the thinking of people like him. The UDA encouraged the LVF to claim the attack but when the claim was made Hutchinson refuted it and placed the blame on the UDA.

We don’t share your credit card details with third-party sellers, and we don’t sell your information to others. He included so many personal elements to our day, and we both feel so fortunate that we had a ceremony like that. He was 14 when, in 1969, many of these demarcation lines became real barricades, thrown up along the previously invisible boundaries between Protestant and Catholic areas as the Troubles began. With hindsight, the collapse of the British Empire and the emergence of the civil rights movement meant “the 1960s should have been a turning point for working-class Protestants in Northern Ireland.Spence resigned from the UVF in 1978 and, after a period of collective leadership by the "officers commanding" of each prison compound, Hutchinson succeeded him as leader of the UVF in Long Kesh. The roots of Hutchinson's involvement lay three years earlier in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader Billy Wright by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). After his release in 1990, he was involved with Gusty Spence and others, in the peace process which led to the announcement, in October 1994, by the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) , of a ceasefire. Less than a week before, 15 people – including two children – had been killed when the UVF bombed McGurk’s bar in north Belfast. But my view very clearly from the Progressive Unionist Party is we all need to be working together - the Unionist parties - to make sure we get a political solution to this.

I always say I was born into a mixed marriage because my father was a socialist and my mother was a unionist”; as a child, his father took him to the Falls to play in the park, and to the cinema. To get to Linfield’s ground at Windsor Park, Shankill supporters of the club had to cross the Falls Road and walk past the nationalist Unity Flats.Written with candour and honesty, this is a lively first-hand account of an extraordinary life and reveals previously hidden episodes of both the Northern Ireland Troubles and the high-profile negotiations that led to the Belfast Agreement of 1998. We had an organisation before we went into the UVF and we were all young, and the difficulty with that was we just couldn’t see a way out. Hutchinson had served as Spence's bodyguard briefly and had been in his company the day Spence was recaptured. Former Home Affairs Minister, Bill Craig, told a Vanguard rally in 1972, to “build up the dossiers on the men and women who are a menace to this country, because if the politicians fail, it may be our job to liquidate the enemy”.

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