FORMER UVF member Ken Wilkinson has said he regrets that”anyone lost their lives”as a result of the conflict,but added that he is not sorry for joining the loyalist paramilitary group.
Mr Wilkinson is currently in the final stages of a terminal lung condition. Speaking to the News Letter, he said that UVF membership had made him a “wiser” man. The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is the political wing of the modern day UVF. Aged 72, he was a Progressive Unionist Party spokesman since the mid-80s but was never elected. A supporter of the peace process he was involved in the early stages of the negotiations with other members of the UVF and republicans. In recent years his South Antrim home was attacked after he spoke out against drug dealers and criminals within his own community.
With just weeks left to live he remains the UVF’s welfare officer for the handful of remaining loyalist prisoners held in Maghaberry Gaol. Speaking about his membership of the illegal organisation Mr Wilkinson said: “I’m on my last days. And there’s no sense in denying anything now.” While saying he had never killed anyone, he still would not comment on his past involvement in shootings and bombings, saying he wanted to protect his family. “I have my own family to think about too. You know, none of my family have never been connected with anything. Every one of them has come up good… worked very hard all their lives. And I don’t want to put them in jeopardy.”
Mr Wilkinson said during the loyalist ceasefires that those involved in the negotiations “took a lot of flak from certain people within loyalism. Adding that they said they were called traitors, “sell-out merchants, because we were sitting down. But you have to make a move if you need peace. “No matter what anyone says, if it hadn’t been for the PUP or the UPRG, there wouldn’t have been a peace process. “The way I looked at it, whenever I saw some of the atrocities that the IRA was committing, that really sickened me. “Whenever I saw Kingsmills and things like that there, people have to really admit that the UVF were more-or-less a reactionary force… They retaliated, same as the UFF, though I can’t speak for them. “I’m sorry that anyone lost their lives. It is really a pity that anyone had to have lost their lives.”
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Allison Morris SECURITY CORRESPONDENT – email@example.com