People have 'lost faith' in Good Friday agreement

People in Northern Ireland have lost faith with the Good Friday Agreement because of a failure to implement it properly, a loyalist party was due to hear today.

People in Northern Ireland have lost faith with the Good Friday Agreement because of a failure to implement it properly, a loyalist party was due to hear today.

Members of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando, were expected to hear their leader David Ervine express growing disillusionment with the Agreement at their annual conference in east Belfast.

With Northern Ireland’s politicians waiting for a breakthrough in peace process talks between David Trimble’s Ulster Unionists and Sinn Féin, Mr Ervine was expected to tell his party rank-and-file of the frustration loyalists feel about their exclusion from the negotiations.

The former East Belfast Assembly member was expected to tell delegates: “The current nonsense passing as a process amounts to political failure not in the Good Friday Agreement but in the process of implementation.”

The PUP will defend two seats in the forthcoming Assembly elections in East and North Belfast and is running candidates in nine other constituencies.

Mr Ervine last week expressed deep rooted frustration on behalf of the PUP and the Ulster Volunteer Force about the handling of the peace process.

Today’s conference was taking place following criticism from nationalist SDLP negotiator Alban Maginness of the British and Irish governments’ failure to address the issue of loyalist weapons.

Conference delegates were also due to address inner city regeneration, the display of flags, racism and plans to introduce water charges.

North Belfast Assembly member Billy Hutchinson was also expected to tackle the issue of rising levels of poverty in Northern Ireland particularly in working class loyalist areas.

The Belfast councillor was due to warn: “Unless the government tackles the problem of rising poverty in working class Protestant areas, an underclass will develop and this problem will be greater than that which existed before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.”

Deputy leader David Rose was also expected to set out the party’s objection to racism.

The North Down Assembly candidate was due to tell colleagues: “The Progressive Unionist party is willing to make a stand against the growing culture of racism in Northern Ireland and highlight the contradictions in claiming to be a loyalist while holding racist views.”

Among the guest speakers at today’s conference will be trade unionist, Chris Hudson.

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