Tag Archives: Mark Fulton

Mark “Swinger” Fulton: Life and Death

Mark “Swinger” Fulton (c. 1961 – 10 June 2002) was a Northern Irish loyalist. He was the leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), having taken over its command following the assassination of Billy Wright in the Maze Prison in 1997 by members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

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Fulton was alleged by journalist Susan McKay to have carried out a dozen sectarian killings in the 1990s. He also allegedly organized the murder of a Catholic lawyer, Rosemary Nelson, in 1999 while he was out of prison on compassionate leave. In 2002, he was found hanged in his cell at Maghaberry Prison, an apparent suicide. He was awaiting trial having been charged with conspiracy to murder a man from a rival loyalist paramilitary organisation. At the time of his death, Fulton was married with two children

– Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these blog post/documentary are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors

Early years

Mark Fulton was born in PortadownCounty Armagh in 1961, one of the children of Jim Fulton, a former British soldier who worked as a window cleaner. His mother, Sylvia (née Prentice), came from a family of wealthy car dealers. Fulton grew up in the working-class Protestant Killycomain area. A childhood friend described Fulton as “a lovely, sweet wee boy”.

Following the outbreak of the Troubles in the late 1960s, Fulton’s father became a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). According to journalist Susan McKay, senior Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) members Robin “the Jackal” Jackson and Harris Boyle were frequent visitors to the Fulton home in the early 1970s.

Jackson, one of the alleged leaders of the gang which carried out the 1974 Dublin car bombings, became the commander of the UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade in July 1975. Four days later, Boyle was blown up after placing a bomb on the Miami Showband’s minibus after the band was stopped at a bogus checkpoint by UVF gunmen, and three band members shot dead.

Ulster Volunteer Force

Fulton left school early and promptly joined the Mid-Ulster UVF, being sworn in at the age of 15.[3] According to Sean McPhilemy, Fulton’s early activity included being part of the UVF gang that opened fire on a Craigavon mobile sweetshop on 28 March 1991, killing two teenaged girls and one man, all Catholics. The attack was allegedly planned by Robin Jackson.

In the early 1990s, Billy Wright, also from Portadown, took over command of the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade from Jackson. The Mid-Ulster Brigade, founded in 1972 by its first commander, Billy Hanna, operated mainly in the Lurgan and Portadown areas. Fulton soon became Wright’s closest associate and right-hand man and had an “extreme fixation and obsession over Wright; he even had an image of Wright tattooed over his heart.

Fulton was alleged to have perpetrated twelve sectarian killings in the 1990s, and reportedly was implicated in many other attacks. His victims were often questioned about their religion prior to their killings, and sometimes they were killed in front of their families.

He was very violent and had a quick temper. Wright was the only person who was able to control him. A Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) detective who knew both of them said that whenever they were stopped by the police in the 1990s, Wright was “coolness personified”, while Fulton would rage, shout and make threats.

Although he was brought up in the Church of Ireland religion, Fulton was a follower of the Reverend Ian Paisley, founder and moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.  In appearance Fulton was heavily tattooed and was known for his habit of always wearing a waistcoat.

The Mid-Ulster Brigade called themselves the “Brat Pack”, which journalist Martin O’Hagan of the Sunday World altered to “Rat Pack”. After the nickname of “King Rat” was given to Wright by local Ulster Defence Association (UDA) commander Robert John Kerr as a form of pub bantering, O’Hagan took to describing Wright by that term.

This soubriquet was thereafter used by the media, much to Wright’s fury. This led him to issue threats against O’Hagan and all journalists who worked for the newspaper. The unit initially welcomed the Combined Loyalist Military Command ceasefire in October 1994; however, things were to change drastically over the next few years.

Loyalist Volunteer Force

Following the order given in August 1996 by the UVF’s Brigade Staff (Belfast leadership) for Wright and the Portadown unit of the Mid-Ulster Brigade to stand down, Fulton remained loyal to Wright and defied the order. This came after the Mid-Ulster UVF’s killing of a Catholic taxi driver, Michael McGoldrick, while the UVF were on ceasefire. Fulton was close to Alex Kerr, the sometime South Befast brigadier of the Ulster Defence Association who had become an ally of Wright during the Drumcree conflict and had been expelled by the UDA at the same time Wright was removed from the UVF.

After Wright defied a UVF order to leave Northern Ireland, he formed the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), taking the members of the officially-disbanded Portadown unit with him, including Fulton. Fulton acted as an adviser to Kerr during the emergence of the LVF as a separate group and told both Kerr and Wright that the LVF should seek a closer relationship with the UDA in order to more fully oppose the UVF.

Fulton, as Wright’s deputy, assumed effective control of the LVF when Wright was sent to the Maze Prison in March 1997, and his relationship with Kerr, who had relocated to the LVF’s Portadown stronghold, soon ended. Fulton, who continued to advocate a closer alliance with the UDA, reasoned that the group would be more prepared to co-operate with the LVF if their dissident former brigadier was not involved and so before long Fulton and his cousin Gary, also a leading LVF member, began to threaten Kerr, resulting in the Kerr family fleeing to England.

Not long after this, on 13 May, Fulton was said by McPhilemy to have been responsible for the abduction and murder of 61 year-old civil servant and GAA official Séan Brown, who was kidnapped in Bellaghy before being murdered in Randalstown.

When Wright was shot dead by the INLA in December 1997, in a prison van while being taken to the Maze’s visitor block, Fulton assumed control of the LVF. In the immediate aftermath he attempted to minimise local violence as youths sympathetic to Wright amassed on Portadown’s loyalist estates preparing to riot in protest at the killing of their leader and local hero.[12] Unlike Wright, Fulton had always been on good personal terms with UDA chief Johnny Adair as the two had socialized together on and off since the early 1990s.

 The alliance was sealed soon afterwards when Mark and Gary Fulton arrived at the Maze prison,ostensibly to visit a friend, but instead sat at Adair’s table in the visiting room. Fulton was deeply affected by Wright’s death, and reportedly spent many nights alone by his grave.

The LVF published a magazine, Leading the Way. The special 1998 edition, commemorating Billy Wright, was edited by and written almost exclusively by Fulton. In an article, “Have Faith”, he advised loyalists to refuse the notion of extending the hand of friendship to “those who are genetically violent, inherent in the Catholic Church, a church as sly as a fox and vicious as a tiger”, citing historic examples of persecution of Protestants by Catholics. In May 1998, the LVF called a ceasefire. It was accepted by the Northern Ireland Office six months later.

See : Who are the Loyalist Volunteer Force

Rosemary Nelson killing

Fulton was arrested in 1998 after shooting at an off-duty soldier in Portadown. He was heavily intoxicated at the time and sentenced to four years imprisonment. While he was out on compassionate leave in early 1999, he allegedly organised the killing of Catholic human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson. During the Drumcree standoff, Nelson had represented the Catholic Portadown residents who opposed the Orange Order‘s march through the predominantly nationalist Garvaghy area. She was blown up by a car bomb on 15 March 1999 outside her home in Lurgan. The bomb was allegedly made by a man from the Belfast UDA but planted by Fulton’s associates acting on his orders.

Colin Port, the Deputy Chief Constable of Norfolk Constabulary who headed the investigation into her death, said “without question” Fulton was the person who had masterminded her killing. Although he was back in prison at the time, he was excited when he heard the news of her death on the radio. He was linked to the killing by police informers but not forensics. It was also revealed that prior to his own death, Wright had threatened to kill Nelson in the belief she had defended IRA volunteers.

See: Rosemary Nelson – September 1958 – March 1999

Fulton was released from prison in April 2001.

Death

On 10 June 2002, Fulton, who was being held on remand in HMP Maghaberry since December 2001, was found dead in his prison cell with a leather belt around his neck. Fulton was found on his bed rather than hanging from the ceiling, leading to speculation that he has death had been accidentally caused by autoerotic asphyxiation.

 Friends claimed he had expressed suicidal thoughts due to both his failure to recover from his close friend Wright’s death, as well as fears he had that he was suffering from stomach cancer. Some reports suggested his unstable mental state had seen him stood down as leader several weeks before his death, with the LVF’s power base transferred to Belfast. He was also afraid that rival loyalist inmates wished to kill him inside the prison.

At the time of his death, Fulton had been awaiting trial, having been charged with conspiracy to murder Rodney Jennett, a member of a rival loyalist paramilitary organisation, in connection with an ongoing feud. He left behind his wife, Louise and two children, Lee and Alana. His funeral was attended by 500 mourners, including a number of senior loyalist paramilitaries, including Johnny Adair and John White, who acted as pallbearers alongside Fulton’s brother Jim and son, Lee. After a service at St Columba’s Parish Church, he was interred in Kernan Cemetery in Portadown. Among the tributes placed in the Belfast Telegraph was one which described Fulton as “Never selfish/Always kind”.

See: The Rise & Fall of UDA Brigadier of Bling James Gray – AKA ” Doris Day

Major events in the Troubles

See : Billy Wright

See:  Robin “the Jackal” Jackson 

See: Deaths in the Troubles 10th Feb

19th October – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

19th October

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Saturday 19 October 1968

Derry Citizen’s Action Committee (DCAC; established on 9 October 1968) organised an illegal sit-down at Guildhall Square as part of large civil disobedience campaign. The event passed off peacefully.

Sunday 19 October 1969

Loyalist Bomb Thomas McDowell (45), a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), was severely injured when a bomb he was planting exploded prematurely at a power station near Ballyshannon in County Donegal. [McDowell died from his injuries on 21 October 1969. McDowell was also a member of the Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV) a paramilitary style organisation formed by Ian Paisley (Holland, 1999: p23).

Tuesday 19 October 1971

A group of five Northern Ireland Members of Parliament (MPs) began a 48 hour hunger strike against Internment. The protest took place near to 10 Downing Street in London. Among those taking part were John Hume, Austin Currie, and Bernadette Devlin.

Thursday 19 October 1972

William Craig, then leader of Ulster Vanguard, spoke a meeting of right-wing Members of Parliament (MPs) at Westminster. He said that he could mobilise 80,000 men to oppose the British government: “We are prepared to come out and shoot and kill. I am prepared to come out and shoot and kill. … I am prepared to kill, and those behind me will have my full support.”

Thursday 19 October 1978

 Hunger Strike.  Public Record Click to read [ proni on cain  

Monday 19 October 1981

Hunger Strike.  Public Record Click to read [ proni on cain

Tuesday 19 October 1982

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) carried out a bomb attack on the headquarters of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in Glengall Street, Belfast. The building was badly damaged by the blast.

Friday 19 October 1984

A British soldier and a Protest civilian were shot dead in separate incidents.

Wednesday 19 October 1988

Broadcasting Ban The British government introduced broadcasting restrictions (‘broadcasting ban’) on those organisations proscribed in Northern Ireland and Britain. Douglas Hurd, then British Home Secretary, announced restrictions on the broadcasting of direct statements by members of specific proscribed organisations. The organisations affected were; Sinn Féin (SF), Republican Sinn Féin (RSF) and the Ulster Defense Association (UDA). The restrictions also applied to individuals who were canvassing support for the named organisations. [Media organisations eventually used a number of methods to try to overcome the effects of the ban. One approach was to employ actors to mimic the voices of those being interviewed.]

Thursday 19 October 1989

Guildford Four Released Three of the ‘Guildford Four’ were released by the Court of Appeal after they had spent 14 years in jail. Those released were Patrick Armstrong, Gerard Conlon, and Carole Richardson. Paul Hill was held in custody pending a hearing in another case but was released later. The court decided that the original confessions had been fabricated by the police. [John May was later appointed to head an inquiry into the circumstances of the Maguire family and the ‘Guildford Four’. However, no police officers were ever prosecuted for their part in the fabrication of confessions.]

Tuesday 19 October 1993

James Molyneaux, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), held a meeting in London with John Major, then British Prime Minister, and repeated his party’s opposition to the Hume-Adams Initiative. Major told the House of Commons that he “knew nothing” of the details of the Hume-Adams Initiative. Michael Howard, then British Home Secretary, signed an ‘exclusion order’ which banned Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), from entering Britain. Adams had been invited by Tony Benn, then a Member of Parliament (MP), to address a meeting at Westminster, London.

Saturday 19 October 1996

The march by the Apprentice Boys of Derry around the city’s walls passed off without trouble. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) held its annual conference. In his address to the conference, David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), blamed the Drumcree crisis on the Anglo-Irish Secretariat.

Sunday 19 October 1997

A number of newspapers in the Republic of Ireland carried further leaked memos from an unknown civil servant in the Department of Foreign Affairs about Mary McAleese, then Fianna Fáil (FF) candidate for President of the Republic of Ireland. The Irish government announced that there would be a Garda Síochána (the Irish police) investigation into the leaks.

Monday 19 October 1998

Both David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and First Minister designate, and Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), travelled to London for separate meetings with Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister. Trimble told the Prime Minister that SF should not be given seats on the Executive without prior decommissioning of weapons. Both McGuinness and Trimble blamed the other for the impasse over decommissioning.

Tuesday 19 October 1999

A joint Garda Síochána (the Irish police) / Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) investigation uncovered a cross-Border money-laundering operation located in a bureau de change. Gardaí recovered more than £1 million in cash and as much as £100 million is believed to have been laundered from drug trafficking and other crimes over the last six years for gangs operating in Belfast and Dublin.

George Mitchell chaired talks that formed part of the review of the Good Friday Agreement in the US Ambassador’s residence of Winfield House in Regent’s Park, London. Peter Mandelson, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, held talks in Dublin with David Andrews, then Minister for Foreign Affairs. Both men said they were “very optimistic” about the prospects for the outcome of the Mitchell Review of the Agreement.

Mark Fulton, then leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), began an action in the High Court, Belfast, to obtain a transfer from Maghaberry Prison to the Maze Prison. Fulton was serving a four year sentence for firearms offences.

Friday 19 October 2001

John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, travelled to Dublin for a meeting with Brian Cowen, then Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs. The two men discussed the decision of the Unionist ministers to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Executive. Both were heartened that the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) had stated its willingness to return to office if there was a start to the decommissioning of Irish Republican Army (IRA) weapons.

Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, and Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), are expected to hold a meeting to discuss the latest setbacks in the peace process. The two leaders are attending a European Union summit in Belgium. The High Court in Belfast rejected an attempt by James Cooper, then chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), to have the result of the election in the Fermanagh / South Tyrone seat on 7 June 2001 declared invalid. The judge in the case decided that the number of votes cast after the offical closing time of 10.00pm (22.00BST) would not have materially affected the outcome of the election. The case had been heard on 17 September 2001.

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Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the death of the following  people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live  forever

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

  6 People lost their lives on the 19th  October  between 1975 – 1984

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19 October 1975
Billy Wright,  (34) nfNIRI
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA)
Died two weeks after being shot at his hairdresser’s shop, Cabra Road, Dublin.

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19 October 1977
George Wilson,  (64)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot at his home, Ainsworth Pass, Shankill, Belfast.

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19 October 1979
James Robinson,   (20)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Shot while driving milk van along Blackfort Road, near Fintona, County Tyrone.

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19 October 1981


Stephen Hamilton,   (24)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
Shot while travelling in stolen car at the junction of Ballygomartin Road and Woodvale Road, Belfast

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19 October 1984


 Fred Jackson,  (48)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) member, during attempted ambush of Irish Republican Army (IRA) unit, Tamnamore, near Dungannon, County Tyrone.

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19 October 1984
Timothy Utteridge,   (19) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while on British Army (BA), foot patrol, Norglen Road, Turf Lodge, Belfast.

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