Billy Hutchinson : biography
Billy Hutchinson (born 1955) is the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. He was elected to Belfast City Council in 1997 and to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998. He lost his assembly seat in 2003 and his council seat in 2005. Before this he had been a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the founder of their youth wing the Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV).
In October 2011 Billy Hutchinson was elected leader of the Progressive Unionist Party at the party's annual conference in succession to Brian Ervine. from UTV In this role Hutchinson took a leading role in the December 2012 campaign of protests and road blockades by loyalists following Belfast City Council passing a resolution to end the practice of flying the Union flag from Belfast City Hall all year round and instead to limit its use to certain designated days. Hutchinson suggested that the process by which the vote was held may not have been legal and on 15 December stated that he would make an announcement about a legal challenge in the "next few days".
In 2000 Hutchinson was caught up in a loyalist feud that broke out between the UVF and the West Belfast Brigade of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). The roots of Hutchinson's involvement lay three years earlier in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader Billy Wright by the Irish National Liberation Army. Wright had been close to the West Belfast UDA and as a result their leading hitman Stephen McKeag shot up a Catholic bar in the Cliftonville Road in retaliation. The UDA encouraged the LVF to claim the attack but when the claim was made Hutchinson refuted the claim and placed the blame on the UDA. He received a strong rebuke for this from the UDP's John White, who accused Hutchinson of working with Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party against the UDA.McDonald & Cusack, UDA, p. 296 The war of words had ignited despite the fact that Hutchinson and White had enjoyed a close friendship in prison.Lister & Jordan, Mad Dog, p. 278
After violent clashes between members of both groups on the Shankill Road the UVF shot and killed two men close to the UDA's West Belfast leadership, Jackie Coulter and Bobby Mahood. The UDA Brigadier Johnny Adair fumed at this development and, seeing Hutchinson being interviewed about the feud on television, phoned one of his deputies Jim Spence, who lived near Hutchinson, and allegedly told him to "go and shoot him right now". Spence told Adair he would but delayed as he wanted to end the feud with as little bloodshed as possible whilst his phone had been tapped by Special Branch who were able to warn Hutchinson. As a result the attack did not occur.David Lister & Hugh Jordan, Mad Dog: The Rise and Fall of Johnny Adair and 'C' Company, Mainstream, 2004, pp. 291-293 Nonetheless on 31 October of that same year Bertie Rice, a friend of Hutchinson and a voluntary worker at his constituency office, was shot and killed by members of the UDA's North Belfast Brigade who were close to Adair.Lister & Jordan, Mad Dog, p. 295
Hutchinson has often stressed the importance of the working class nature of loyalism and has argued in favour of socialism, although other socialists have criticized the exclusionary nature of his ideas, arguing that it does not constitute true socialism as it only applies to one community.Eamonn McCann, from Socialist Workers Party site His declared support for socialism also came in for strong criticism from then UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade commander Billy Wright whose virulent opposition to left-wing politics helped to push him away from the mainstream UVF.Cusack & McDonald, UVF, p. 350 John "Grugg" Gregg, Brigadier of the UDA South East Antrim Brigade and, like Wright, a man with close links to far right groups in England, was also a strong critic of Hutchinson and accused him of thinking "like a republican".Susan McKay, Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People, Blackstaff Press, 2005, p. 91 Hutchinson has conceded that some of his ideas were influenced by contact with Official IRA members with whom he studied in prison.Sinnerton, David Ervine, p. 116
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