PUP's Russell Watton says 'no regrets' over UVF past
A PUP councillor has spoken openly about his UVF past, saying he has no regrets.
Russell Watton, who topped the poll in Coleraine in this month's council elections, told of his involvement in bombings and a gun attack for which he faced three life sentences.
He said he was motivated by a thirst for revenge against IRA violence during the Troubles and at the time had "no great interest" in his side's victims.
Mr Watton also did not condemn continuing paramilitary activity in Coleraine, saying that "but for their presence, the estates would be awash with drugs".
The councillor said a 1973 IRA bomb attack in Coleraine which killed six pensioners was a "catalyst" for him joining the UVF.
Speaking to the Coleraine Chronicle, Mr Watton told of his involvement in bombings and a "gratuitous" gun attack on a Dunloy pub.
"Three people were wounded and I was involved. It was gratuitous and it was pure luck that no-one was killed. But, it was the way it was at the time and I believed in what I was doing," he said.
"I was sentenced in June 1977 to three life sentences for wounding with intent, causing explosions, memberships of the UVF plus some other less serious offences."
Mr Watton was released in 1989.
"I do not regret being involved in the fight against militant Irish republicanism. Though I do regret the effect it had on my family, particularly my mother," he said.
Asked about victims, he added: "We'd no great interest in them, quite honestly. It was a very cruel time when morality went out the window."
Mr Watton said he now works hard to "ensure young men aren't caught up in trouble of any description – including joining paramilitary groups".
Asked about paramilitaries still operating in Coleraine, the councillor said: "I sincerely believe that, but for their presence, the estates would be awash with drugs."
He added: "I'd rather the police did it, but people go to paramilitaries in desperation."