Winston Rea Obituary: Remembering a Complex Figure

Winston Churchill Rea, known as Winkie Rea, a former loyalist paramilitary commander, has passed away at the age of 72. This article pays tribute to his life, which was marked by historical complexities and personal contributions to the peace process, as we remember a figure whose legacy is far from straightforward.

In Loving Memory of Winkie Rea

Winston Rea’s life was filled with twists and turns, a journey through the tumultuous history of Northern Ireland. His recent passing, just a week after his wife Liz Rea’s funeral, marks the end of an era.

A Glimpse into Winkie Rea’s Life

To understand Winston Rea’s legacy, we must delve into the various facets of his life and the complexities that defined it. Here’s a summary table to provide an overview:

Early LifeBorn in Northern Ireland, date of birth.
Paramilitary InvolvementFounder of the First Shankill NI Supporters Club.
Legal BattlesFaced a Diplock-style trial and multiple charges.
Peace ProcessPlayed a role in the loyalist ceasefires and Good Friday Agreement negotiations.
Personal LifeMarried to Liz Rea, with children Colin, Pauline, and Christine.
LegacyHis life leaves a complex legacy due to historical associations and contributions to peace efforts.

The Complexities of Winkie Rea’s Life

Winkie Rea’s life journey was far from straightforward. Here, we explore some key aspects in more detail:

Paramilitary Involvement

Winkie Rea was a prominent figure in loyalist paramilitary circles. His role as the founder of the First Shankill NI Supporters Club highlighted his connection to this world. However, this association came with its own set of controversies and challenges.

Legal Battles

Rea’s life was marked by legal battles, particularly related to charges stemming from alleged interviews with Boston College researchers. These charges were connected to two Troubles-related murders and his alleged membership in the Red Hand Commando gang. His trial faced repeated delays due to his health condition and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Contribution to Peace

Despite his paramilitary background, Winkie Rea played a role in the peace process in Northern Ireland. His involvement in the loyalist ceasefires of 1994 and participation in negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 showcased a different side of his persona—one committed to peace and reconciliation.

Personal Loss

The passing of Liz Rea, Winkie’s wife, just a week before his own death, added a layer of personal sorrow to this chapter. Their enduring connection and shared experiences were evident in the funeral notice, reflecting the deep loss experienced by the Rea family.

Winkie Rea’s Lasting Legacy

Winkie Rea’s life leaves behind a complex legacy. His journey encompassed paramilitary involvement, legal battles, contributions to peace efforts, and personal connections. As we reflect on his passing, we remember a figure who defies easy categorization and whose impact on Northern Ireland’s history is a multifaceted tale.

Efforts were underway to have his trial re-listed for conclusion, but his passing has closed this chapter. Regardless of one’s perspective on his life, there’s no denying that Winkie Rea’s story is an integral part of Northern Ireland’s complex history.


We bid farewell to Winston Churchill Rea, a man whose life journey reminds us that history is often painted in shades of gray, and legacies are rarely simple. His passing marks the end of a chapter, but the complexities of his life will continue to be discussed and debated in the annals of Northern Ireland’s history.