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Thursday 18 September 2014

Ervine tried to blow up UDA chiefs

Published 14/01/2007 | 00:11

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LOYALIST leader David Ervine, who died last week, was on his way to blow up the UDA leadership when he was arrested in 1974. A UVF terrorist, at the time, he was going to use a bomb similar to those used by the organisation in the bombing of Dublin and Monaghan earlier that year.

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JIM CUSACK

LOYALIST leader David Ervine, who died last week, was on his way to blow up the UDA leadership when he was arrested in 1974.

A UVF terrorist, at the time, he was going to use a bomb similar to those used by the organisation in the bombing of Dublin and Monaghan earlier that year.

Ervine never publicly admitted that his arrest prevented the bombing of the UDA headquarters. However, in an off-the-record interview for a book on the UVF, he revealed his real intentions.

There had been a bitter split between the two terror groups at the time.

During the feud there were two attempts on Ervine's life. Ervine said he had been double-crossed at a meeting between the UVF and UDA in east Belfast to negotiate a settlement.

"After the meeting I went out, and they had let down my tyres. I went back and put my gun to Billy's belly under the table," he said.

On the second occasion, UDA gunmen were waiting for him outside a pub. He left by a side door and trained his gun on his would-be assassins until they left.

The feud came to an end soon after the UDA leadership learned how close they had come to being wiped out.

Ervine was one of several expert bomb-makers with the UVF at the time. And despite claims that the British army or RUC colluded in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the loyalists deny this, and a former senior RUC source told the Sunday Independent that they arrested UVF men in connection with the atrocities, but Dublin showed no interest in having the men questioned by gardai.

One former senior officer said his officers arrested two of the suspected bombers and held them at Tennant Street RUC Station in west Belfast, on suspicion of stealing and supplying one of the cars used in the Dublin attack. He said he rang Garda Headquarters and asked if they wanted to question the men or seek their extradition.

His contact at Garda Headquarters promised to ring back, but the call never came.

The former RUC officer believed that the Dublin Government did not want to send detectives to Belfast because then they would have to allow RUC detectives travel south to question IRA members suspected of crimes in the North.

He said that at the time there were hundreds of IRA men and women on the run in the Republic, many of them wanted for murder. Extradition was a politically contentious in the Republic.

All members of the small but significant UVF were taught bomb-making skills on joining the organisation and none died in a premature explosion. They were taught to adapt the hand-wound alarm clocks of the type which were used in the Dublin and Monaghan attacks.

Ervine, who was 21 when he was arrested, served five years in prison and when he emerged he had turned against violence. He finished the school studies he had interrupted to join the UVF and gained a degree in social sciences. He never rejoined the UVF and came under the influence of the former UVF leader, Gusty Spence - who himself served a life sentence for murdering a young Catholic man in 1966 - and who later wanted to see a political road forward for loyalists. Spence paid tribute to Ervine last week, saying he had "lost a son".

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