FROM: Lexi Davidson, Mid Ulster Progressive Unionist Party spokesman
It’s interesting to see and hear the various views offered as analysis on the Progressive Unionist Party by journalists, media commentators, political pundits and armchair spectators.
Whilst they are entitled to their opinion, what they say or print doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality and in most cases is conjecture or perception.
Let’s be clear, the PUP are a political party. They have policies and structures like any other political party. Their members are reflective of the society they seek to represent. The party historically arose from within the ranks of the UVF and from those Unionists who felt they were not represented by mainstream parties or big house Unionism. But time moves on and in essence so has the PUP.
The membership of the PUP today is reflective of broader society within Northern Ireland. Many members, in fact the majority of members, would have been children when the ceasefires were called in 1994. Some would not even have been born. Older members come from varying backgrounds and indeed many were combatants in the conflict that engulfed our communities, with many having served in the security forces or alternatively served time in the prisons for their part in paramilitary actions.
The views and experiences of all the members are equally valid within the party. Our members primary aim is to provide a voice for those within Unionism who are not and never have been properly represented in a true political sense. Our view of Unionist politics is from the ground up, not through rose tinted glasses and not based on cute party statements from self serving politicians.
We see the problems at street level that others have failed to see or turn away from because they are not easy issues to address.
Our members are local to the communities they work within for the party, in most instances without any fanfare for the dedicated service they provide. We will continue in doing this irrespective of the opinions of the great and the good, the media or other parties fearful of our electoral progress.
Recent media analysis has focused on the party and a perceived linkage with the UVF. We cannot deny our historical path to this point in time and would not wish to do so. We recognise that there are many ex combatants who “went home” when the ceasefires were announced rendering their fight finished. We also recognise and welcome all the ex combatants who took up the political fight for Unionism within their respective communities and who continue to serve in a purely political sense.
To those who choose a different path and hide behind a badge to cover for their actions, we will continue to challenge and question their motivation.
We offer our full support to the party leadership and in particular to Winston Irvine, who at this time is being demonised by the same media and political mouthpieces who cosy up to Sinn Fein and the IRA. We will not be deflected in our primary task of empowering the communities we live within and in providing an authentic voice for them.