Gusty Spence
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Augustus Andrew "Gusty" Spence (28 June 1933
. ''
Conflict Archive on the Internet CAIN (Conflict Archive on the Internet) is a database containing information about Conflict and Politics in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster-Scots: ') is #Descriptions, variously de ...
(CAIN). Retrieved 5 April 2011.
– 25 September 2011) was a leader of the paramilitary
Ulster Volunteer Force The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is an Ulster loyalism, Ulster loyalist paramilitary group. It emerged in 1966. Its first leader was Gusty Spence, a former British Army soldier from Northern Ireland. The group undertook Timeline of Ulster Volunte ...
(UVF) and a leading
loyalist Loyalism, in the United Kingdom, its British Overseas Territories, overseas territories and its British Empire, former colonies, refers to the allegiance to the British crown or the United Kingdom. In North America, the most common usage of th ...
politician A politician is a person active in party politics A political party is an organization that coordinates candidate A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective recipient of an award or honor, or a person seeking or being considered for some ...

politician
in
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Northern Ireland
. One of the first UVF members to be convicted of murder, Spence was a senior figure in the organisation for over a decade. During his time in prison Spence renounced violence and helped to convince a number of fellow inmates that the future of the UVF lay in a more political approach. Spence joined the
Progressive Unionist Party The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is a small unionist political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold sim ...
(PUP), becoming a leading figure in the group. As a PUP representative he took a principal role in delivering the loyalist ceasefires of 1994.


Early years

Spence was born in the Shankill Road, Belfast,
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Northern Ireland
, the son of William Edward Spence, who was born in
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,
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England
and raised in the Tiger's Bay area of north Belfast before moving to the Shankill.Garland, ''Gusty Spence'', p. 6 William Edward Spence was a member of the
Ulster Volunteers The Ulster Volunteers was a unionist militia founded in 1912 to block domestic self-government (or Home Rule) for Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Atla ...
and had fought in the
First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war that began on 28 July 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918. It involved much of Europe, as well as Russia, the Unite ...
. He married Isabella "Bella" Hayes, Gusty Spence's mother, in 1919. Spence was the sixth of seven children, their birth order being Billy, Cassie, Jim, Bobby, Ned junior, Gusty and Lily. The family home was 66 Joseph Street in an area of the lower Shankill known colloquially as "the Hammer".
Roy Garland Roy Garland is a newspaper columnist for the nationalist (Ireland), nationalist ''Irish News'' and a member of the Ulster Unionist Party. Career In the 1960s, Garland became convinced that the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, Northern Ire ...
, ''Gusty Spence'', Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2001, p. 5
He was educated at the Riddel School on Malvern Street and the Hemsworth Square school, both on the Shankill, finishing his education aged fourteen. He was also a member of the Church Lads' Brigade, a
Church of Ireland The Church of Ireland ( ga, Eaglais na hÉireann, ; sco, label=Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster-Scots, Kirk o Airlann) is a Christian church in Ireland and an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. It is organised on an all-Ireland basis ...
group, and the Junior
Orange Order The Loyal Orange Institution, commonly known as the Orange Order, is an international Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the L ...
. His family had a long tradition of Orange Order membership.Steve Bruce, ''The Red Hand'', Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 15 Spence took various manual jobs in the area until joining the
British Army The British Army is the principal Army, land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces. , the British Army comprises 80,040 regular full-time personnel and 30,020 Army Reserve (United Kingdom), reserve personnel. ...
in 1957 as a member of the
Royal Ulster Rifles The Royal Irish Rifles (became the Royal Ulster Rifles from 1 January 1921) was an infantry at the Battle of the Somme (July–November 1916) during the First World War Infantry is an army specialization whose military personnel, personnel ...
. Spence rose to the rank of military police sergeant.Jim Cusack & Henry McDonald, ''UVF'', Dublin: Poolbeg, 1997, p. 20 He served in the army until 1961 when ill-health forced him to leave. Spence was stationed in
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially called the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or politi ...
during his time in the army and saw action fighting against the forces of Colonel
Georgios Grivas Georgios Grivas ( el, Γεώργιος Γρίβας; 6 June 1897 – 27 January 1974), also known by his nickname Digenis ( el, Διγενής), was a Greek Cypriot general in the Greek Army and the leader of the EOKA organisation. Early ...
.Moloney, ''Paisley'', p. 130 After leaving the army Spence found employment at the
Harland & Wolff Harland & Wolff is a shipyard, specialising in ship repair, conversion, and offshore construction, located in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Harland & Wolff is famous for having built the majority of the ocean liners for the White Star Line. Well ...
shipyard in Belfast where he worked as a stager (builder of the scaffolding in which the ships are constructed), a skilled job that commanded respect amongst working class Protestants and ensured for Spence a higher status within the Shankill. From an early age Spence was a member of the Prince Albert Temperance , where fellow members included John McQuade. He was also a member of the
Royal Black Institution The Royal Black Institution, the Imperial Grand Black Chapter Of The British Commonwealth, or simply the Black Institution,Apprentice Boys of Derry The Apprentice Boys of Derry is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Criticism of the Catholic Church, errors in the Catho ...
. Due to his later involvement in a murder he was expelled from the Orange Order and the Royal Black Institution, although it is unknown whether the Apprentice Boys of Derry took any disciplinary action. The Reverend
Martin Smyth Reverend William Martin Smyth (born 15 June 1931) is a Northern Irish unionist politician, and was Ulster Unionist Party The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP; ga, Páirtí Aontachtach Uladh) is a Unionist (Ireland), unionist political party in ...
was influential in the expulsion of Spence by the Orange Order.


Involvement with loyalism

His older brother Billy Spence was a founding member of
Ulster Protestant Action Ulster Protestant Action (UPA) was an Ulster loyalist Ulster loyalism is a strand of Ulster unionism associated with working class Ulster Protestants in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; Ulster Scots dialec ...
(UPA) in 1956 and Gusty Spence himself was also a member of the group. He was frequently involved in street fights with republicans and garnered a reputation as a "hard man". He was also associated loosely with prominent loyalists such as
Ian Paisley Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, Baron Bannside, (6 April 1926 – 12 September 2014) was a Northern Irish loyalist Loyalism, in the United Kingdom, its British Overseas Territories, overseas territories and its British Empire, former colonies ...
and Desmond Boal and was advised by both men in 1959 when he launched a protest against
Gerry Fitt Gerard Fitt, Baron Fitt (9 April 1926 – 26 August 2005) was a politician in Northern Ireland. He was a founder and the first leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), a Social democracy, social democratic and Irish nationalism, ...
at
Belfast City Hall Belfast City Hall ( ga, Halla na Cathrach Bhéal Feirste; Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster-Scots: ''Bilfawst Citie Haw'') is the civic building of Belfast City Council located in Donegall Square, Belfast, Northern Ireland. It faces North and effecti ...

Belfast City Hall
after Fitt had described Spence's regiment as "murderers" over allegations that they had killed civilians in
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially called the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or politi ...
. Spence, along with other Shankill Road loyalists, broke from Paisley in 1965 when they sided with Jim Kilfedder in a row that followed the latter's campaigns in Belfast West. Paisley had intimated that Kilfedder, a rival for the leadership of dissident unionism, was close to
Fine Gael Fine Gael (, ; English language, English: "Family (or Tribe) of the Irish"), officially Fine Gael (United Ireland), is a Liberal conservatism, liberal-conservative and Christian democracy, Christian-democratic list of political parties in the Rep ...
after learning that he had attended party meetings while a student at
Trinity College, Dublin , name_Latin = Collegium Sanctae et Individuae Trinitatis Reginae Elizabethae juxta Dublin , motto = ''Perpetuis futuris temporibus duraturam'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic l ...

Trinity College, Dublin
. The Shankill loyalists supported Kilfedder and following his election as MP sent a letter to Paisley accusing him of treachery during the entire affair.


Ulster Volunteer Force

Spence had claimed that he was approached in 1965 by two men, one of whom was an
Ulster Unionist Party The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is a unionist and conservative Conservatism is a Political philosophy, political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in relation to ...
MP, who told him that the
Ulster Volunteer Force The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is an Ulster loyalist Ulster loyalism is a strand of Ulster unionism associated with working class Ulster Protestants in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; Ulster Scots d ...
was to be re-established and that he was to have responsibility for the Shankill. He was sworn in soon afterwards in a ceremony held in secret near
Pomeroy, County Tyrone Pomeroy is a small village and Civil parishes in Ireland, civil parish in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It is in the townland of Cavanakeeran, about from Cookstown, from Dungannon and from Omagh. The United Kingdom Census 2001, 2001 Census r ...
.Hennessey, ''Northern Ireland'', p. 55 Because of his military experience Gusty Spence was chosen as the military commander and public face of the UVF when the group was established although
RUC Special Branch RUC Special Branch was the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and was heavily involved in the British state effort during the Troubles, especially against the Provisional Irish Republican Army. It worked closely with MI5 and the Intel ...
believed that his brother Billy, who kept a much lower public profile, was the real leader of the group. Whatever the truth of this intelligence, Gusty Spence's Shankill UVF team was made up of only around 12 men on its formation. Their base of operations was the Standard Bar, a pub on the Shankill Road frequented by Spence and his allies (it was normal practice for UVF "teams" to be based at a single pub that its members used socially). On 7 May 1966, a group of UVF men led by Spence
petrol bomb A Molotov cocktail, also known as a petrol bomb, gasoline bomb, bottle bomb, poor man's grenade, fire bomb (not to be confused with an actual Firebombing, fire bomb), fire bottle or just Molotov, sometimes shortened as Molly, is a generic name ...
ed a Catholic-owned pub on the Shankill Road. Fire also engulfed the house next door, killing the elderly Protestant widow, Matilda Gould (77), who lived there. On 27 May, Spence ordered four UVF men to kill an
Irish Republican Army The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a name used by various paramilitary organisations in Ireland throughout the 20th and the 21st centuries. Organisations going by this name have been dedicated to irredentism through Irish republicanism, the bel ...
(IRA) member, Leo Martin, who lived on the Falls Road. Unable to find their target, the men drove around in search of any Catholic instead. They shot dead John Scullion (28), a Catholic civilian, as he walked home.Dillon, Martin. ''The Shankill butchers: the real story of cold-blooded mass murder''. Routledge, 1999. Pages 20–23 Spence later wrote "at the time, the attitude was that if you couldn't get an IRA man you should shoot a
TaigTaig, and (primarily formerly) also Teague, are anglicisations of the Irish-language male given name ''Tadhg'', used as ethnic slurs for a stage Irishman. ''Taig'' in Northern Ireland is most commonly used as a derogatory term by Ulster loyalism, lo ...
, he's your last resort". On 26 June, the same gang shot dead Catholic civilian Peter Ward (18) and wounded two others as they left a pub on Malvern Street, Belfast. Two days later, the
government of Northern Ireland The government of Northern Ireland is, generally speaking, whatever political body exercises pol authority over Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster-Scots: ') is #Descriptions, variousl ...
declared the UVF illegal. Shortly after, Spence and three others were arrested. In October 1966, Spence was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Peter Ward, although Spence has always claimed he was innocent. He was sent to
Crumlin Road Prison HMP Belfast, also known as Crumlin Road Gaol, is a former prison situated on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast, Northern Ireland. Since 1996 it is the only remaining Victorian era prison in Northern Ireland. It is colloquially known as ''the Crum ...
. During its 12 July 1967 march, the Orange lodge to which he belonged stopped outside the prison in tribute to him.McKay, Susan
"Portadown: Bitter Harvest"
. ''Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People''. Blackstaff Press, 2000.
This occurred despite Spence having been officially expelled from the Orange Order following his conviction. Spence's involvement in the killings gave him legendary status among many young loyalists and he was claimed as an inspiration by the likes of Michael Stone.
Tim Pat Coogan Timothy Patrick "Tim Pat" Coogan (born 22 April 1935) is an Irish writer, broadcaster and newspaper columnist. He served as editor of '' The Irish Press'' newspaper from 1968-87. He has been best-known for such books as ''The IRA'', ''Ireland Sin ...
has described Spence as a "loyalist folk hero". The attack was however repudiated by Ian Paisley and condemned in his '' Protestant Telegraph'', sealing the earlier split between the two.


In prison

Spence appealed against his conviction and was the subject of a release petition organised by the
Ulster Constitution Defence Committee The Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC) was established in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster-Scots: ') is #Descriptions, variously described as a country, province, or region ...
, although nothing came of either initiative. Despite the fact that control of the UVF lay (nominally at least) with Spence's closest ally Samuel "Bo" McClelland, from prison Spence was often at odds with the group's leadership, in particular with regards to the 1971
McGurk's Bar bombing On 4 December 1971, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), an Ulster loyalist Ulster loyalism is a strand of Ulster unionism associated with working class Ulster Protestants in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ...
. Spence now argued that UVF members were soldiers and soldiers should not kill civilians, as had been the case at McGurk's Bar. Spence respected Irish republican paramilitaries, who he felt also lived as soldiers, and to this end he wrote a sympathetic letter to the widow of
Official IRA The Official Irish Republican Army or Official IRA (OIRA; ) was an Irish republican paramilitary group whose goal was to remove Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label= Ulster-Scots, Norlin Airlann) is ...
leader
Joe McCann Joe McCann (2 November 1947 – 15 April 1972) was an Irish republican volunteer. A member of the Irish Republican Army and later the Official Irish Republican Army, he was active in politics from the early 1960s and participated in the early ...
after he was killed in 1972.


Fugitive

Spence was granted two days leave around 1 July 1972 to attend the wedding of his daughter Elizabeth to Winston Churchill "Winkie" Rea. The latter had formally asked Spence for his daughter's hand in marriage during a prison visit.Taylor. ''Loyalists''. pp.110–111 Met by two members of the
Red Hand Commando The Red Hand Commando (RHC) is a small secretive Ulster loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster-Scots: ') is #Descriptions, variously described as a count ...
upon his release, Spence was informed of the need for a restructuring within the UVF, and told not to return to prison. He initially refused and went on to attend his daughter's wedding. Afterwards a plot was concocted where his nephew Frankie Curry, also a UVF member, would drive Spence back to jail but the car would be stopped and Spence "kidnapped". As arranged, the car in which Spence was a passenger was stopped on the Springmartin Road and Spence was taken away by UVF members. He remained at large for four months and during that time even gave an interview to ITV (TV network), ITV's ''World in Action'' in which he called for the UVF to take an increased role in the Northern Ireland conflict against the Provisional IRA while also distancing himself from any policy of random murders of Catholics. He also took on responsibility for the restructuring, returning the UVF to the same command structure and organisational base that Edward Carson had utilised for the original UVF, with brigades, battalions, companies, platoons, and sections. He also directed a significant restocking of the group's arsenal, with guns mostly taken from the security forces.Taylor, ''Loyalists'', p. 112 Spence gave his permission for UVF brigadier Billy Hanna to establish the UVF's UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade, Mid-Ulster Brigade in Lurgan, and endorsed Hanna as commander of the unit."Sunningdale pushed hard-liners into fatal outrages in 1974". ''Irish Independent''. Joe Tiernan. 16 May 1999
Retrieved 10 October 2011
His fugitive status earned him the nickname "the Orange Pimpernel". Spence was arrested along with around thirty other men at a UVF drinking club on Brennan Street during his spell at large but, after giving a false name and details, he was released. Spence's time on the outside came to an end on 4 November when he was captured by Colonel Derek Wilford of the Parachute Regiment (United Kingdom), Parachute Regiment, who identified Spence by tattoos on his hands. He was returned to Crumlin Road gaol soon afterwards, where he shared a cell with William Smith (loyalist), William "Plum" Smith, one of the Red Hand Commandos whom he had met upon his initial release and who had since been jailed for attempted murder.


Move to politics

Spence soon became the UVF commander within the Maze (HM Prison), Maze Prison. Spence ran his part of the Maze along military lines, drilling inmates and training them in weapons use while also expecting a maintenance of discipline. As the loyalist Maze commander, Spence initially also had jurisdiction over the imprisoned members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), although this came to an end in 1973 when, following a deterioration of relations between the two groups outside the prison walls, James Craig (loyalist), James Craig became the UDA's Maze commander. By this time Spence polarised opinion within the UVF, with some members fiercely loyal to a man they saw as a folk hero and others resenting his draconian leadership and increasing emphasis on politics, with one anonymous member even labelling him "a cunt in a cravat". Spence began to move towards a position of using political means and persuaded the UVF leadership to declare a temporary ceasefire in 1973.Taylor, ''Loyalists'', p. 138 Following Merlyn Rees' decision to legalise the UVF in 1974, Spence encouraged them to enter politics and supported the establishment of the Volunteer Political Party. However, Spence's ideas were abandoned as the UVF ceasefire fell apart that same year following the Ulster Workers' Council strike and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; the carnage of the latter had shocked and horrified Spence. Furthermore, the VPP suffered a heavy defeat in West Belfast in the October 1974 United Kingdom general election, October 1974 general election, when the DUP candidate John McQuade captured six times as many votes as the VPP's Ken Gibson (loyalist), Ken Gibson. Spence was increasingly disillusioned with the UVF and he imparted these views to fellow inmates at Long Kesh. According to Billy Mitchell (UVF member), Billy Mitchell, Spence quizzed him and others sent to the Maze about why they were there, seeking an ideology, ideological answer to his question. When the prisoner was unable to provide one Spence would then seek to convince them of the wisdom of his more politicised path, something that he accomplished with Mitchell. David Ervine and Billy Hutchinson were among the other UVF men imprisoned in the mid-1970s to become disciples of Spence. In 1977 he publicly condemned the use of violence for political gain, on the grounds that it was counter-productive. In 1978 Spence left the UVF altogether. His brother Bobby, also a UVF member, died in October 1980 inside the Maze, a few months after the death of their brother Billy.


PUP activity

Released from prison in 1984, he soon became a leading member of the UVF-linked
Progressive Unionist Party The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is a small unionist political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold sim ...
(PUP) and a central figure in the Northern Ireland peace process. Spence initially worked solely for the PUP but after a spell he also set up the Shankill Activity Centre, a government-supported scheme to provide training and leisure opportunities for unemployed youths.Bruce, ''The Red Hand'', p. 147 He was entrusted by the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) to read out their 13 October 1994 statement that announced the loyalist ceasefire. Flanked by his PUP colleagues Jim McDonald and William "Plum" Smith, as well as Ulster Democratic Party members Gary McMichael, John White (loyalist), John White and Davy Adams, Spence read out the statement from Fernhill a former Cunningham family home on their former Glencairn estate in Belfast's Glencairn area, an important training centre for members of Edward Carson's original Ulster Volunteers, UVF. A few days after the announcement, Spence made a trip to the United States along with the PUP's David Ervine and Billy Hutchinson and the UDP's McMichael, Adams and Joe English (loyalist), Joe English, where among their engagements was one as guests of honour of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He went on to become a leading advocate of the Belfast Agreement. In August 2000, Spence was caught up in moves by Johnny Adair's "C" Company of the UDA to take control of the Shankill by forcing out the UVF and other opponents. Adair's men forced their way into Spence's Shankill home but found it empty as Spence tended to spend much of the summer at a caravan he owned in Groomsport. Nonetheless the C Company members ransacked the house and stole Spence's army medals while the Spence family were forced to stay off the Shankill for the entirety of the loyalist feud. When Spence's wife died three years later he said that C Company had been responsible for her death such was the toll that the events had taken on her health. On 3 May 2007, he read out the statement by the UVF announcing that it will keep its weapons but put them beyond the reach of ordinary members. The statement also included a warning that activities could "provoke another generation of loyalists toward armed resistance". He did not specify what activities or what was being resisted.


Personal life

Spence married Louie Donaldson, a native of the city's Grosvenor Road, on 20 June 1953 at Wellwood Street Mission, Sandy Row. The couple had three daughters, Elizabeth (born 1954), Sandra (1956) and Catherine (1960). Louie died in 2003. Spence, a talented association football, footballer in his youth with Old Lodge F.C., was a lifelong supporter of Linfield F.C.


Death

Spence died on 25 September 2011, aged 78, in a Belfast hospital; he had been suffering from a long-term illness and was admitted to hospital 12 days prior to his death. Spence was praised by, among others, PUP leader Brian Ervine, who stated that "his contribution to the peace is incalculable"; and Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly who claimed that while Spence had been central to the development of loyalist paramilitarism, "he will also be remembered as a major influence in drawing loyalism away from sectarian strife". However, a granddaughter of Matilda Gould, a Protestant widow who died of burn injuries at the age of 74, which had been sustained in the UVF's attempted bombing of a Catholic bar next door to Gould's home, objected to Spence being called a "peacemaker" and described him as a "bad evil man". The unnamed woman stated, "When you go out and throw a petrol bomb through a widow's window, you're no peacemaker." His funeral service was held in St Michael's Church of Ireland on the Shankill Road. Notable mourners included Unionist politicians Dawn Purvis, Mike Nesbitt, Michael McGimpsey, Hugh Smyth and Brian Ervine, UVF chief John "Bunter" Graham and UDA South Belfast brigadier Jackie McDonald. In accordance with Spence's wishes there were no paramilitary trappings at the funeral or reference to his time in the UVF. Instead his coffin was adorned with the beret and regimental flag of the Royal Ulster Rifles, his former regiment. He was buried in Bangor, County Down, Bangor."Ex UVF chief laid to rest"
, ''Newsletter''


References


External links


BBC News, Thursday, 3 May 2007, "Loyalist veteran's path to peace"
{{DEFAULTSORT:Spence, Gusty 1933 births 2011 deaths Loyalists imprisoned during the Northern Ireland conflict People convicted of murder by Northern Ireland Paramilitaries from Belfast People from Northern Ireland convicted of murder Prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment by Northern Ireland Progressive Unionist Party politicians Royal Ulster Rifles soldiers Ulster Volunteer Force members Anglicans from Northern Ireland