Terminally-ill PUP man Ken Wilkinson condemns sectarianism and drug-peddling loyalists

A loyalist who is awaiting impending death has lamented the ongoing sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 11:55 am
Updated Thursday, 25th June 2020, 9:22 am
Ken Wilkinson addresses a loyalist rally in 2011 at Belfast City Hall

Ken Wilkinson, a veteran PUP representative who was also in the paramilitary organisation the UVF, made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with the News Letter.

Mr Wilkinson, 72, is dying of a terminal lung condition.

READ MORE FROM THAT INTERVIEW HERE:

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One thing which particularly exercised Mr Wilkinson during his interview with the News Letter was the recent furore over Linfield FC’s away kit.

He mentioned it a number of times, citing it as an example of how entrenched the political divide still is.

He went as far as to say “I think sectarianism is worse than it ever was – I really do, when I look about me”.

He was referring to the recent uproar over the football top, which bears the same colours (purple and orange) as a commonly-flown UVF flag – leading some, including Alliance MP Stephen Farry, to call for it to be scrapped.

“A football kit,” said Mr Wilkinson. “The country is falling apart! People are dying of this virus. A football kit. It amazes me.

“I thought Stephen Farry was more of a man than that. I’d a bit of respect for him.

“He should be thinking more about his community than the colours of a football team.”

One of the things which has also kept Mr Wilkinson in the news over the years is the repeated attacks upon his home in Antrim.

These were particularly common several years ago and the incidents included a pipe bomb attack in 2010, a car being driven into the house and set alight in 2012, being sent a bullet and a sympathy card in 2013, and facing off against masked intruders in 2017 – one of whom stabbed him in the arm.

After the 2010 attack, Mr Wilkinson told the BBC: “I have been outspoken of late against certain incidents in the Antrim area and also on the issue of drugs, if people think this is their way of quietening me down, they have made a big mistake.”

In 2000, friend and party colleague Denver Smith was murdered in the town when a gang hacked at him with a machete. That too may have been linked to drugs.

What of criminality in loyalism today? “Totally wrong. There’s good men died fighting for our community, taking a stand. And for these people to say that they’re great loyalists – it’s wrong.

“I had a young niece, what was she? Twenty-one. I used to say to her all the time: no drugs. She had curvature of the spine and she was in the hospital for an operation. She came and went out with her friends for her 21st birthday.

“And her mummy went up the next morning to the bedroom and there she was sitting, dead, in the chair. They reckoned that one e-tab killed her. On e-tab. Because she had that much morphine still in her body.

“It wrecked her mother and father, it really did. It was their only child. And it just destroyed them.

“I’ve had many friends have lost young people. You have to speak out.

“As I say, I’ve had several attacks on my life. Two pipe bombs. A car bomb. A couple of cars burnt out. But I’m not a person who’s easily frightened to be quite honest with you.”

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