King Rat ultimatum puts peace to test

The Protestant paramilitary death threat against a leading Portadown loyalist yesterday developed into a political controversy which could have far-reaching effects on the Northern Ireland talks process.

Billy Wright, 36, a former Ulster Volunteer Force prisoner, said that he intended to defy the "directive" from all three major loyalist paramilitary organisations to leave Northern Ireland by midnight on Saturday.

A statement from the "Combined Loyalist Military Command" on Wednesday warned him that failure to leave would result in "summary justice". But Mr Wright responded: "I suppose if they don't move, their words are empty, but I think they will find it very hard to justify to the Unionist people, and even their own members, for what this is - a form of fascism."

His refusal to leave means that the issue has turned into a major test of the authority of the UVF, the Ulster Defence Association and Red Hand Commandos. It could also develop into a test of the state of extreme Protestant opinion, as the paramilitary leaderships favour maintaining their ceasefire while Mr Wright favours ending it.

The affair reached into the political arena yesterday when the two main Unionist parties, David Trimble's Ulster Unionists and the Reverend Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists, opened a campaign to have the two smaller loyalist parties excluded from the multi-party talks due to resume in Belfast next month.

The smaller parties, the Progressive Unionists and the Ulster Democratic party, have close links with the UVF and UDA and are regarded by many as the political wings of the two paramilitary groups. The mainstream unionist complaint is that the two parties should not be allowed to remain at the table while their parent organisations are issuing public death threats.

The PUP's spokesman, David Ervine, made clear in a series of interviews that he did not approve of the "directive" to Mr Wright, but he resisted pressure to issue an outright condemnation of the move. Saying he was "not in the business of the politics of condemnation", he added: "The word 'condemnation', if you want me to use it, I won't use it. I simply won't use it for one reason because it doesn't work, it hasn't saved a single life in Northern Ireland."

Peter Robinson, the DUP's deputy leader, wrote to the Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, urging him to suspend the PUP and UDP from the talks process. "Somebody who goes around threatening to kill people if they don't get out of the country is hardly behaving as one is expected to within a democracy," he said.

John Taylor, the Ulster Unionist's deputy leader, said the PUP had to condemn the threat to Mr Wright. "When the UVF and other paramilitaries are threatening murder of a loyalist, we are asking the PUP to condemn it," he said. "If the PUP do not, they would leave themselves in the same position as Sinn Fein."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?