Ex-Red Hand Commando and leading loyalist William 'Plum' Smith dies

William 'Plum' Smith has died age 62
William 'Plum' Smith has died age 62

Leading loyalist William 'Plum' Smith has died aged 62.

The ex-Red Hand Commando member was sentenced to 10 years in jail in the 70s for his part in an attempted murder.

He later became a key player in the peace process in Northern Ireland, chairing a news conference in 1994 in which the 'Combined Loyalist Military Command' declared a ceasefire, just weeks after the IRA announced a ceasefire.

When Smith was released from jail, he joined the PUP, and became a key member of their negotiating team which worked with other parties to secure the Good Friday Agreement.

He later went on to become the chairman of the Progressive Unionist Party.

Former leader of the PUP, Brian Ervine, told the BBC: "It's very, very sad that Plum has passed on.

"Plum was in the forefront of negotiating and bringing loyalist paramilitaries into the peace process and politicising the UVF and Red Hand Commando.

"He was a very intelligent fellow, he educated himself in Long Kesh.

"He also took Irish lessons there as well, he called the Irish language his own language.

"I'm just very, very sorry, I found him a very decent human being, and I found him a very forward thinking human being and he will be a loss, certainly to the Progressive Unionist Party and the loyalist community.

"He was a clear thinker, he was left of centre politically, he had a heart for ordinary people, for working class people, he tried to provide a voice, a voice which had been neglected.

"He was also happy enough to stretch over the fence and do business with traditional enemies."