January 9th, 2007

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David Ervine, 1953-2007

There were a substantial cohort of political activists in Northern Ireland whose initial burst of public activity coincided with the peace process in the mid-1990s. I was one of the least prominent (and least successful) among them; David Ervine was one of the most prominent. He is, I think, the first of that cohort to have died.

I have to get up early tomorrow morning to get the train to London, and he deserves a longer tribute than this. But I'll just record for now that I always found him congenial, sincere, and straightforward in our relatively few mutual dealings. I think the last time we met was in a TV studio before the 2003 elections, where I correctly assured him that his own Assembly seat was reasonably safe but his colleague in North Belfast might have a more difficult task.

His time, to be honest, had passed. He was unable to really engage the UVF in the decommissioning process; he was unable to keep the Loyalist electorate engaged in his political project. I had already predicted on my website that he was likely to lose his East Belfast assembly seat to the DUP in the event of elections this year, and I think that that DUP gain must now be a near-certainty.

But I would have liked to see him sit around the TV studios for the next twenty years in graceful (or graceless) retirement as a pundit, puffing on his pipe and continuing to expound mercilessly on the topic of why those who voted for the other Unionist parties were voting against their own self-interest. We won't see that now.