DUP's MLA breaks silence on dad's Ulster Resistance links

LINKS: DUP leader Peter Robinson pictured alongside Noel Little, fourth from left, at an Ulster Resistance rally
LINKS: DUP leader Peter Robinson pictured alongside Noel Little, fourth from left, at an Ulster Resistance rally

Stormont's newest MLA has spoken about her UDR father who was the main instigator in a foiled bid to procure weapons for loyalist paramilitaries.

Emma Pengally – nee Little – joined the assembly on Monday as a replacement for departing South Belfast DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt. She is a former special adviser to Peter Robinson and the wife of department of health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly.

The new South Belfast MLA's father is Noel Little, a Co Armagh loyalist and founder of Ulster Resistance, a paramilitary group with links to Mr Robinson and other senior DUP members.

Little was one of three men arrested in Paris in 1989 in connection with a plot to exchange a missile stolen from Shorts for South African guns. Arrested alongside him were James King from Killyleagh in Co Down and Samuel Quinn from Newtownards.

After spending two years on remand the trio received suspended sentences and fines.

The weapons they sought to procure were destined for the UVF, UDA and Ulster Resistance, a paramilitary group launched at a rally in the Ulster Hall addressed by then DUP leader Ian Paisley and his successor.

Mr Robinson, who at the time was DUP deputy leader, was later photographed alongside Little at another Ulster Resistance rally, wearing a beret and military fatigues.

In a newspaper article which she penned herself, Ms Pengelly (35) refers fleetingly to her father's arrest – though notably not his conviction.

She spoke of facing difficult situations, such as poverty, bereavement and ill health.

"In my case it was the sudden and unexpected arrest of my father in Paris, leading to him losing his job, being away from us for some years and the subsequent profound impact on my family's life," she wrote in the Belfast Telegraph.

"What my experience has taught me is that personal circumstances need not dictate the pathway for our lives."

Former UDR man Little was also arrested in 1987 in connection with another weapons procurement plot in the Middle East. A man arrested with a huge cache of semi-automatic rifles had Little's phone number written on his hand.

After the arms find and the Paris convictions, Ulster Resistance assumed a much lower profile. A small group of activists reportedly broke away, referring to themselves as Resistance. It is believed the latter group joined the Combined Loyalist Military Command in the years running up to the 1994 ceasefire.