No change in Ervine's condition

The leader of the North's Progressive Unionist Party is fighting for his life in hospital after he suffered a reported two heart attacks and a stroke at the weekend.

David Ervine, an Assemblyman for east Belfast, is one of the most respected representatives of the loyalist community and a key proponent of the peace process.

Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast confirmed last night that the 53-year-old was in a critical condition in its intensive care unit with his family by his bedside.

Mr Ervine was jailed in the 1970s for being present in a car loaded with a UVF car bomb, but later played a key role in securing the loyalist ceasefires of 1994.

He is regarded as one of the most eloquent spokesmen for the loyalist community.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern and Northern Secretary Peter Hain are among several politicians who have sent messages of support and concern to his family.

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