PUP campaigns to drive racists out

John O'Neill johnfergaloneill at eircom.net
Tue May 27 14:53:11 MDT 2003


PUP campaigns to drive racists out of Ballymena

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday May 25, 2003
The Observer

They chant 'No surrender to the IRA' at England internationals and fly the
Ulster flag, the symbol of Protestant loyalism, alongside the Cross of St
George.
They even come on 'solidarity tours' during the Northern Ireland marching
season, hoping to meet idols such as the loyalist terrorist Johnny 'Mad
Dog' Adair.
But now the far-right neo-Nazis of Britain are being told they are not
welcome
in the staunchest loyalist town in Ulster and capital of Ian Paisley's Bible
belt - Ballymena.

The man leading the campaign to stop English-based far-right groups
establishing
a base in the province is a former loyalist killer who now supports the
peace process.

Over the past three months there have been attacks on houses rented by
nurses
from the Philippines and Romanian economic migrants in the Co Antrim town.

In response, the ex-Ulster Volunteer Force prisoner Billy McCaughey, and
colleagues in the Progressive Unionist Party, PUP, have come on to the
streets
to drive the neo-Nazis out.

Standing under a street sign covered in race hate leaflets, McCaughey points
to a slogan from the National Front. It reads: 'Proud to be British and
white.'
'I'm proud to be British too,' he says, 'but you don't have to be white
to be British. Even in my most sectarian days I was never a racist.'

His 'sectarian days' began while he was a serving Special Branch officer
in the Royal Ulster Constabulary by day and a member of the Ulster Volunteer
Force at night. He was sentenced to a life sentence for the 1977 murder
of Catholic chemist William Strathhearn. In the Maze prison he met Gusty
Spence, David Ervine and other UVF leaders who were to push the loyalist
movement towards a ceasefire and a compromise with the republicans.

Since the neo-Nazi presence emerged in his home town, McCaughey has been
concerned to stop young loyalists joining organisations such as the National
Front and the White National Party, a more extreme offshoot of the British
National Party.

'These groups can sound attractive to young loyalists because their rhetoric
is so pro-British and pro-unionist,' he says. 'But these people are no
friends
of Ulster loyalists. The PUP believes in a pluralist United Kingdom.'What's
more, the UVF centres its history on the Somme and the sacrifice of Ulster
people in two world wars. In the Second World War, Ulster people fought
against Hitler and the Nazis, and now these neo-Nazis want to make common
cause with us.'
McCaughey said he and fellow PUP members have held meetings in Ballymena
to persuade UVF members to have nothing to do with the neo-fascist groups
that have descended on the town.

Since the PUP door-to-door campaign against the Far Right began around
Easter,
there have been no further attacks on immigrant workers in the town.
Not all loyalist terror groups and their political allies are as hostile
towards the English Far Right as the UVF and PUP. The Loyalist Volunteer
Force maintains connections with the neo-Nazi terrorist organisation Combat
18. Until recently sections of the UDA also had links with C18.









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