Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ervine the optimist

Fans of political positivity everywhere will be sad to hear that David Ervine has died. Northern Ireland will be a poorer place as a result.

Ervine tried, and, despite a number of setbacks, he proved that it was worth trying. He provided a classic example of political leadership, making the journey from violent Loyalism to democratic politics.

He may not have intended that it would be quoted as an epitaph, but he won't get a better one than his own view about the current situation:
"The next phase of the process is parliamentary democracy."
Not just in Norn Irn David.

I met him a good few times over drinks, and - while it was hard to agree with everything he said - his passionate Socialism always shone though. He was good company as well.

Mick of Slugger has a good tribute with some excellent quotes from the man on Comment is Free. It's well worth the read (but don't look at the comments underneath, obviously).


Paul Anderson said...

Tell us the story of how you played guitar at the crucial Labour Party conference fringe meeting when Gusty Spence and David Ervine came and drank stout with the Sinners. I was there, and was impressed and scared by the geezers in the room. But it was the Stickies that sorted it, no? They all had fucking iron handshakes.

Paulie said...

Iron handshakes? I think that the only real solid handshake was from Big 'I had a twin brother but I ate him' Mick, the Workers Party doorman.

Of the ex-paramilitary crowd that went to Labour conferences and were on good terms with the the WP, I thought that nearly all of them were completely sold on the peace process, and there were very few people there who appeared struck me as particularly threatening.

I was always surprised with the way the loyalist parties were reported as well. The UDP (linked to the UDA) were always reported as being entirely cynical while the PUP were reported as having elements that could only be described as 'The Peace People' (this wasn't a complement either).

Of the UDP people I met, some of them were either very credible actors, or were clever committed left-wingers who were completely convinced of the need to wind down their armed organisations. I'll admit that the UDP leadership were less forward-looking though. I think that John White was quite closely linked with John Adair, wasn't he?

The only ones that, to me, didn't seem too convinced were some of the PUP people - and I got the impression that they had been brought along so that the likes of Spence and Ervine could convince them that a peaceful party with good links to a Labour government was a better place to be in, than having most of your people in prison and the other half watching their backs all the time.

A few of the bodyguards did look a bit scary though - and I know from very short conversations with them that they weren't convinced about anything.