‘Shame that UVF man came to peace too late’

By Gemma Burns

The grandson of a woman murdered in the UVF bombing of McGurk’s Bar said this week it is a pity loyalist leader Gusty Spence had not realised non violence was the answer before innocent people were killed.

Ciarán MacAirt, whose grandmother Kathleen Irvine, was one of 15 people killed when the UVF blew up McGurk’s Bar on North Queen’s Street in 1971, was speaking after the death of the UVF founding father at the weekend.

Mr MacAirt said although the loyalist figurehead had a strong hand in leading loyalism towards peace, lives could have been saved if they had tried to ensure peace earlier. However he said Gusty Spence’s efforts in bringing the north to peace have to be recognized.

“Personally I would send my condolences to his family members,” he said

“The paradox here is that he had to go to prison before he had his ‘Damascus moment’ and it had to be after he had a hand in killing three innocent people. It is a crying shame it took him a good few years to realise that what they were doing was unsoldierly and lacked courage and that sectarianism is not the way forward.”

The 78 year old’s funeral was held yesterday (Wednesday) in St Michael’s Church, off the Shankill Road. In the 1960s, he founded the modern Ulster Volunteer Force, an organisation that was responsible for hundreds of sectarian murders during the Troubles. He was jailed for life for the murder of a Catholic barman in 1966 and served 18 years in prison. He later became involved in politics and announced the landmark loyalist paramilitary ceasefires in 1994.

“You have to recognize his efforts in bringing loyalism towards peace,” he said.

“But you have to take the good with the bad, he left us with the UVF who are responsible for so many murders and even today are a malign influence in loyalist areas

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