Leading loyalist William ‘Plum’ Smith is buried

William 'Plum' Smith's funeral service took place at St Matthw's Parish Church on the Woodvale Road
William 'Plum' Smith's funeral service took place at St Matthw's Parish Church on the Woodvale Road

A former leading loyalist paramilitary who played a key role in the peace process has been buried in Belfast

William “Plum” Smith died in hospital earlier this week after a short illness. He was 62.

Mourners at the funeral service of William 'Plum' Smith

Mourners at the funeral service of William 'Plum' Smith

He was buried on Friday at St Matthew’s Parish Church on the Woodvale Road.

The former UVF and Red Hand Commando paramilitary was imprisoned during the Troubles for attempted murder.

During some of the worst years of the conflict he and other senior loyalists, including Gusty Spence and David Ervine, started formulating strategies to move Northern Ireland away from violence.

He was central to the process which brought the historic step of the Combined Loyalist Military Command ceasefire in 1994, chairing the press conference that announced the move.

Smith later went on to become part of the loyalist political delegation that helped negotiate the landmark Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

He was a former chairman of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), which has a close alignment with the UVF.

Former PUP leader Brian Ervine described Smith as a “very intelligent” man.

“I’m just very, very sorry,” he said. “I found him a very decent human being, and I found him a very forward-thinking human being and he will be a loss, certainly to the Progressive Unionist Party and the loyalist community.

“He was a clear thinker, he was left-of-centre politically, he had a heart for ordinary people, for working-class people, he tried to provide a voice, a voice which had been neglected.”

Mr Ervine told Radio Ulster: “He was also happy enough to stretch over the fence and do business with traditional enemies.”

Speaking earlier this week, PUP chairman Brian Lacey said that Mr Smith’s death was a “massive loss for the wider loyalist community”.

Mr Lacey said: “Plum’s contribution to the peace process was major, and he showed significant courage in his determination that the conflict in Northern Ireland should end.

“Plum was dedicated to his work supporting the ex-prisoner community, particularly in terms of resettlement and campaigning for them and their families.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”