'Billy Wright and INLA carved up drugs market'

FORMER PUP leader David Ervine claimed murdered LVF man Billy Wright cooperated with the INLA to sell drugs.

"Voices From The Grave" by veteran journalist Ed Maloney hit the headlines this week with claims from former IRA man Brendan "The Dark" Hughes that Gerry Adams had been a key player in the organisation.

Mr Ervine was also interviewed for the book on the proviso the details would not be released until after his death.

He told a Boston College researcher, former PUP member Wilson McArthur, that Wright was "heavily involved with drugs".

"There was a notorious story about a dance hall in Northern Ireland, where, on one side of the hall, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) sold certain types of drugs and, on the other side, Billy Wright's UVF members sold a different type of drugs," said Mr Ervine.

He added: "They'd (Wright and the INLA) carved up a drugs market – these were diametrically opposed, absolutely violent enemies of each other, who could function together in that respect."

The INLA later shot Wright dead in the Maze prison in 1997.

Mr Ervine also revealed that many rank-and-file UVF men – some of whom themselves were convicted for murder – were disgusted by the actions of the Shankill Butchers but were too scared to confront them.

"There were those who believed that the UVF leadership were afraid of some of the personalities. It's as simple as that," he told the researcher.

The Shankill Butchers are estimated to have killed up to 30 people, and gained both their nickname and notoriety from their favoured use of butchers' knives to torture and kill their victims.

"UVF prisoners had the highest incidence of life-sentence in any of the compounds, so they weren't angels or pussycats. So I think when multiple murderers are saying 'Hey, for f**g sake', I think it's worth listening to them.

"The butcher stuff was ... obscene and nobody could defend it."

Even though the contents of the interviews would never become public until after his death, Mr Ervine said he was "unwilling" to speak in detail about his role and activity in the UVF.

However, the researcher was led to believe his speciality was the use of explosives.

The book notes that between September 1972 and July 1974 when Mr Ervine was an active member of the UVF, the organisation killed 54 people, 36 of them in the Republic and 18 in Northern Ireland – all but one of these killings was through bombs either hidden in the boot of a car or tossed into a building.

He was arrested on November 2, 1974 after he was caught transporting a bomb in a stolen car on the Holywood Road in east Belfast.

Mr Ervine died of two massive heart attacks and a stroke in January 2007.

His funeral was attended by politicians from across the spectrum, from Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams to former UUP leader David Trimble, as well as the then Chief Constable Hugh Orde.