Trade Union tribute to Billy McCaughey

A leading trade unionist has paid tribute to Billy McCaughey, the Ahoghill UVF killer turned peace process supporter.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions' man, Peter Bunting (right) became the first person to give the Billy McCaughey Memorial Lecture - at the Progressive Unionist Party's annual conference.

Mr Bunting explained that McCaughey had once held his father at gunpoint and forced him out of his job, just because he was a Catholic.

However, the ICTU assistant general secretary contended that McCaughey, who latterly resided at Queen Stret, Harryville, who died last year at the age of 56, had turned his life around for the better.

McCaughey was a member of an RUC Special Patrol Group in the 1970s.

But he was also part of a UVF gang which carried out a 1976 gun and bomb attack on a Keady pub - shooting a fleeing customer.

And, in 1978, he was involved in the kidnapping of Ahoghill parish priest, Canon Hugh Murphy.

He was jailed for his life in 1980 for his role in the murder of Catholic chemist, William Strathearn.

When he was released in the early 1990s, McCaughey became embroiled in sectarian tensions in the Ballymena area and led protests at Catholic masses in Harryville in 1996.

But McCaughey apparently underwent a 'Road To Damascus' style conversion - supporting the peace process and leading a campaign against neo-Nazis.

Peter Bunting revealed that his dad, Peter Sr had been forced to leave his job in north Belfast, after being threatened by a young McCaughey in 1971.

Mr Bunting told PUP delegates that "Billy McCaughey was prepared to kill for what he saw as his people. At the end of his days, he had lived for more people than he could have ever dreamed about in 1971."

He added: "I would also like to think that, if my father had lived long enough to witness the full life of Billy McCaughey, then he too would have recognised him as a brother and a comrade."