1981 Loyalist Recollections

Former Loyalist prisoners David Ervine, Billy McQuiston, and Sam Courtney offer their views on the prison protest of 1976-1981 which led to the deaths of ten men on hunger strike.

David Ervine: A Northern Irish Unionist politician and the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), he was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and was imprisoned for possessing bomb-making equipment. Whilst in jail he became convinced of the benefits of a more political approach for Ulster loyalism and became involved with the PUP. As a leading PUP figure, Ervine helped to deliver the loyalist ceasefire of 1994.

Billy McQuiston: He was a high-ranking member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and leader of the organisation’s ‘A’ Company, Highfield, West Belfast Brigade. Imprisoned for 12 years for possession of weapons. He became a community activist, often working with former members of the Provisional Irish Republic Army (IRA) in West Belfast’s troubled interface areas where adjoining loyalist and republican communities intersect.

Sam Courtney: He was an Ulster Defence Association (UDA) activist and a leading figure in Johnny Adair’s ‘C’ Company, one of the most active sections of the UDA, before later falling out with Adair and serving as West Belfast brigadier. Jailed in 1991 for robbery, theft and hijacking, he became a leading figure within HNP Maze. With Adair and Michael Stone, he met Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politician and then Lord Mayor of Belfast, Rev. Eric Smyth, in the prison to discuss the possibility of a future prisoner release scheme.

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