Tag Archives: Ulster Protestant

10th August – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

10th August

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

Tuesday 10 August 1971

During the 9 August 1971 and the early hours of the 10 August Northern Ireland experienced the worst violence since August 1969.

Over the following days thousands of people (estimated at 7,000), the majority of them Catholics, were forced to flee their homes. Many Catholic ‘refugees’ moved to the Republic of Ireland, and have never returned to Northern Ireland.

Saturday 10 August 1974

The body of Patrick Kelly (33), a Nationalist councillor, was discovered in Lough Eyes, near Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh. Kelly had disappeared on 24 July 1974 after leaving Trillick, County Tyrone, to travel home.

Sunday 10 August 1975

There was an outbreak of shooting between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the British Army in west Belfast.

     

Siobhan McCabe, & Patrick Crawford,

Two Catholic children, aged 4 and 15 years, were killed in the crossfire during separate incidents and another eight people were injured.

[These incidents mark a further dilution of the IRA truce.]

Tuesday 10 August 1976

Peace People (Women’s Peace Movement) Established

A member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was shot dead, by a British Army mobile patrol, as he drove a car along Finaghy Road North, Belfast.

The car then went out of control and ploughed into the Maguire family who were walking on the pavement.

Three children were killed as a result of this incident, Joanne Maguire (9), John Maguire (3) and Andrew Maguire (6 weeks).

Two of the children died at the scene and the third died the following day. In the aftermath of these deaths there were a series of peace rallies held in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.

There were rallies on 12 August 1976, 14 August 1976, 21 August 1976, 28 August 1976 and in London on 27 November 1976.

Mairead Maguire, July 2009
Mairead Maguire

The rallies were organised by the children’s aunt, Mairead Corrigan, and another woman, Betty Williams (they were later joined by Ciaran McKeown).

Betty Williams.jpg
Betty Williams

Initially the group called itself the Women’s Peace Movement as the rallies were mainly attended by women from both the main communities. Later the name was changed to the Peace People.

The rallies were the first since ‘the Troubles’ began where large number of Catholics and Protestants joined forces on the streets of Northern Ireland to call for peace. On 10 October 1977 it was announced that Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams would receive the Nobel Peace Prize for their work. On 5 October 1978 the original leaders of the Peace People announced that they were stepping down from the leadership of the organisation.

Wednesday 10 August 1977

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) planted a small bomb in a garden on the campus of the New University of Ulster which was visited by the Queen as part of her jubilee celebrations. The bomb exploded after the Queen had left and it caused no injuries, nor was the Queen’s schedule affected. Members of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) refused to attend a reception in her honour.

Monday 10 August 1981

Patrick Sheehan

Patrick Sheehan, then an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, joined the hunger strike.

Friday 10 August 1984

Francis Hand (Garda Siochana )

A member of the Garda Siochana (GS) was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in County Meath. A member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was accidentally killed as he tried to escape from the Maze Prison.

Monday 10 August 1992

UDA Banned

( See UDA Page for background & History )

Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was to be proscribed (banned) as of from midnight.

The move was welcomed by Nationalist politicians who felt the decision was long overdue.

Many commentators felt that the timing of the move was related to the recent upsurge in Loyalist violence. During the first six months of the year the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a cover name (pseudonym) used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), had killed more people than the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Wednesday 10 August 1994

Harry O’Neill (60), a Catholic civilian, was shot dead by the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a cover name (pseudonym) used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

He was killed while working as security man at a supermarket, Orby Link, Castlereagh, Belfast.

Saturday 10 August 1996

In a decision taken during the morning the Apprentice Boys of Derry organisation decided not to try to walk along the section of closed-off Derry walls. The main parade through the centre of the city went ahead as planned. Contentious parades in Newtownbutler and Roslea, County Fermanagh went ahead after compromises were reached with local residents. There was trouble in Dunloy, County Derry, when a large group of Apprentice Boys tried to parade through the village.

John Molloy (18), a Catholic man, was stabbed to death in Belfast.

Sunday 10 August 1997

The Sunday Times (a London newspaper) carried a claim by David Ervine, then a spokesperson for the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had tried to persuade Loyalist paramilitaries from calling a ceasefire in 1994. It was also claimed that the DUP had continued to try to undermine the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) ceasefire once it was in place.

[The DUP later responded to the claims by saying that Ervine was engaging in “fantasy politics”.]

Sinn Féin (SF) held a rally in Belfast and called on Unionists to join them at the talks in Stormont. While the rally was in progress the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) staged a publicity stunt involving armed members posing with weapons for a cameraman in west Belfast.

The INLA later released a statement that called the ceasefire by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) “bogus”.

Tuesday 10 August 1999

Two pipe-bombs were recovered after Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers stopped a car acting suspiciously in the Rathenraw estate in Antrim shortly after midnight. Two men were arrested and the devices were defused by British Army (BA) officers.

Thursday 10 August 2000

A pipe-bomb was discovered in Magherafelt, County Derry, and was diffused by the British army. The attack was carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries. Loyalists also attacked 12 Catholic homes in Carrickhill and Ardoyne.

Friday 10 August 2001

Assembly Suspended For 1 Day

Two men were shot in separate paramilitary ‘punishment’ attacks in west Belfast. A 17-year-old youth was shot in both legs and arms in Andersonstown after he had been taken from his home. The second man was shot in both legs in Twinbrook.

John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that he was suspending the Northern Ireland Assembly, at midnight, for a short period and hoped the period of suspension would last just for the coming weekend.

[The suspension lasted just 24 hours. The effect of the suspension was to allow another period of six weeks (until 22 September 2001) in which the political parties would have a second opportunity to come to agreement and re-elect the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.]

There was a report in the Irish Times (a Republic of Ireland newspaper) on the scale of Loyalist paramilitary pipe-bomb attacks across Northern Ireland during 2001. Of the 134 pipe-bombs used during the year to date 50 had exploded and the rest were either defused or failed to explode. There had been 44 pipe-bomb attacks in Belfast; 19 in Coleraine; 12 in Ballymena; 6 in Larne; and 5 in Ballymoney.

Sam Kinkaid, then Assistant Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), said that the attacks have been carried out by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

Omagh Bomb

Some of the relatives of those killed by the Omagh Bomb (15 August 1998) announced that they were beginning a civil action against the “real” Irish Republican Army (rIRA).

[The legal action would involve the families sueing five men (alleged to be members of the rIRA) for compensation. This action was thought to be the first of its kind.]

See Omagh Bomb

See The IRA’s Deadliest Massacre of Civilians

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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.

17  people lost their lives on the 10th August between 1971 – 1994

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 10 August 1971

Norman Watson  (53)

Protestant

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA) Shot while driving along Irish Street, Armagh.

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10 August 1971

Paul Challoner

Paul Challoner,  (23) nfNI

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA) Shot while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Bligh’s Lane, Creggan, Derry.

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 10 August 1971

Edwards Doherty,  (28)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA) Shot while walking along Whiterock Road, Ballymurphy, Belfast.

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 10 August 1973

Joseph Murphy

Joseph Murphy   (22)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY) Shot while walking along Kennedy Way, Andersonstown, Belfast.

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 10 August 1975

Siobhan McCabe

Siobhan McCabe,   (4)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA) Shot during gun battle between Irish Republican Army (IRA) and British Army (BA), McDonnell Street, Lower Falls, Belfast.

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 10 August 1975

Patrick Crawford

Patrick Crawford,  (15)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk) Shot during gun battle between Irish Republican Army (IRA) and British Army (BA), grounds of Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

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 10 August 1976

Daniel Lennon

Daniel Lennon,   (23)

Catholic

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA) Shot while driving car away from attempted ambush of British Army (BA) foot patrol, car went out of control and crashed into Maguire family, walking along Finaghy Road North, Belfast.

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 10 August 1976

John Maguire,   (3)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk) Died when hit by car, which went out of control and mounted pavement, after the Irish Republican Army (IRA) member driver had been shot by British Army (BA) patrol, Finaghy Road North, Belfast.

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10 August 1976

Joanne Maguire

Joanne Maguire,   (9)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk) Died when hit by car, which went out of control and mounted pavement, after the Irish Republican Army (IRA) member driver had been shot by British Army (BA) patrol, Finaghy Road North, Belfast.

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 10 August 1976

Andrew Maguire,  (0)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk) Died when hit by car, which went out of control and mounted pavement, after the Irish Republican Army (IRA) member driver had been shot by British Army (BA) patrol, Finaghy Road North, Belfast.

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 10 August 1979

Arthur McGraw,  (29)

Protestant

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA) Shot outside his home, Moneycarrie Road, Garvagh, County Derry. Mistaken for his Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) member brother.

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10 August 1984

Benjamin Redfern

Benjamin Redfern,  (32)

Protestant

Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: not known (nk) Crushed to death in back of refuse lorry during attempted escape from Long Kesh / Maze Prison, County Down.

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 10 August 1984

Francis Hand

Francis Hand,   (26) nfNIRI

Status: Garda Siochana (GS),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA) Shot during attempted armed robbery at post office, Drumcree, County Meath.

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 10 August 1988

Samuel Patton,  (33)

Protestant

Status: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) Found shot in field, off Ballyversal Road, near Coleraine, County Derry.

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 10 August 1988

James McPhilemy,   (20)

Catholic

Status: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA),

Killed by: British Army (BA) Shot while involved in attempted gun attack on permanent British Army (BA) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), Clady, near Strabane, County Tyrone.

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10 August 1991

James Carson,   (33)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Loyalist Retaliation and Defence Group (LRDG) Shot at his shop, junction of Falls Road and Donegall Road, Falls, Belfast.

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10 August 1994

Harry O’Neill

Harry O’Neill,  (60)

Catholic

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) Security man. Shot while in security hut at supermarket, Orby Link, Castlereagh, Belfast.

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Battle of the Bogside – Northern Ireland History

Battle of the Bogside –  Northern Ireland History

12–14 August 1969

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Start Of The Battle Of The Bogside, 12th August 1969

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Apprentice Boys March, Derry, 12th August 1969

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The Battle of the Bogside was a very large communal riot that took place during 12–14 August 1969 in Derry, Northern Ireland. The fighting was between residents of the Bogside area (organised under the Derry Citizens’ Defence Association), and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) along wih local unionists.

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries 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.

The rioting erupted at the end of an Apprentice Boys parade which was passing along the city walls, past the Catholic Bogside. Fierce rioting broke out between local unionists and the police on one side and Catholics on the other. Rioting between police and Bogside residents continued for three days. The police were unable to enter the area and eventually the British Army was deployed to restore order.

The riot, which sparked widespread violence elsewhere in Northern Ireland, is commonly seen as one of the first major confrontations in the conflict known as the Troubles.

Background

Tensions had been building in Derry for over a year before the Battle of the Bogside. In part, this was due to long-standing grievances held by much of the city’s population. The city had a majority Catholic and nationalist population. In 1961, for example, the population was 53,744, of which 36,049 was Catholic and 17,695 Protestant.

However, because of gerrymandering after the partition of Ireland, it had been ruled by the Ulster Unionist Party since 1925.

Nationalist grievances

Unionists maintained political control of Derry by two means. Firstly, electoral wards were designed so as to give unionists a majority of elected representatives in the city. The Londonderry County Borough, which covered the city, had been won by nationalists in 1921. It was recovered by unionists, however, following re-drawing of electoral boundaries by the unionist government in the Northern Ireland Parliament.

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Battle of the Bogside;Full Documentary.

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Secondly, only owners or tenants of a dwelling and their spouses were allowed to vote in local elections. Nationalists argued that these practices were retained by unionists after their abolition in Great Britain in 1945 in order to reduce the anti-unionist vote. Figures show that, in Derry city, nationalists comprised 61.6% of parliamentary electors, but only 54.7% of local government electors.

There was also widespread discrimination in employment.

As a result, although Catholics made up 60% of Derry’s population in 1961,  due to the division of electoral wards, unionists had a majority of 12 seats to 8 on the city council. When there arose the possibility of nationalists gaining one of the wards, the boundaries were redrawn to maintain unionist control.

Control of the city council gave unionists control over the allocation of public housing, which they allocated in such a way as to keep the Catholic population in a limited number of wards. This policy had the additional effect of creating a housing shortage for Catholics.

Another grievance, highlighted by the Cameron Commission into the riots of 1969, was the issue of perceived regional bias; where Northern Ireland government decisions favoured the mainly Ulster Protestant east of Northern Ireland rather than the mainly Catholic west.

Examples of such controversial decisions affecting Derry were the decision to close the anti-submarine training school in 1965, adding 600 to an unemployment figure already approaching 20%; the decision to site Northern Ireland’s new town at Craigavon and the siting of Northern Ireland’s second university in the mainly unionist town of Coleraine rather than Derry, which had four times the population and was Northern Ireland’s second biggest city.

Activism

In March 1968, a small number of activists in the city founded the Derry Housing Action Committee, with the intention of forcing the government of Northern Ireland to change its housing policies. The group’s founders were mostly local members of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, such as Eamonn McCann, and members of the James Connolly Republican Club (the Northern manifestation of Sinn Féin, which was banned in Northern Ireland). The Housing Action Committee took direct action such as blocking roads and attending local council meetings uninvited in order to force them to house Catholic families who had been on council housing waiting list for a long time.

By the summer of 1968, this group had linked up with the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and were agitating for a broader programme of reform within Northern Ireland.

On 5 October 1968, these activists organised a march through the centre of Derry. However, the demonstration was banned. When the marchers, including Members of Parliament Eddie McAteer and Ivan Cooper, defied this ban they were batoned by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The actions of the police were televised and caused widespread anger across Ireland, particularly among northern nationalists. The following day, 4,000 people demonstrated in solidarity with the marchers in Guildhall Square in the centre of Derry.

This march passed off peacefully, as did another demonstration attended by up to 15,000 people on 16 November. However, these incidents proved to be the start of an escalating pattern of civil unrest, that culminated in the events of August 1969.

Free Derry Corner in the Bogside; the slogan “You are now entering Free Derry” was first painted in January 1969 by John Casey

January to July, 1969

In January 1969, a march by the radical nationalist group People’s Democracy from Belfast to Derry was attacked by off-duty Ulster Special Constabulary members and other Ulster loyalists during the Burntollet bridge incident, five miles outside Derry.[13][14][15] The regular police refused to protect the marchers. When the marchers (many of whom were injured) arrived in Derry on 5 January, fighting broke out between their supporters and the police. That night, police officers broke into homes in the Catholic Bogside area and assaulted several residents.

An inquiry led by Lord Cameron concluded that:

“a number of policemen were guilty of misconduct, which involved assault and battery, malicious damage to property…and the use of provocative sectarian and political slogans”.

After this point, barricades were set up in the Bogside and vigilante patrols organised to keep the police out. It was at this point that the famous mural with the slogan “You are now entering Free Derry” was painted on the corner of Columbs Street by a local activist named John Casey.

On 19 April there were clashes between NICRA marchers, loyalists and the police in the Bogside area. Police officers entered the house of Samuel Devenny (42), a local Catholic who was not involved in the riot, and severely beat him with batons. His teenage daughters were also beaten in the attack. Devenny died of his injuries on 17 July[17] and he is sometimes referred to as the first victim of the Troubles.

Others consider John Patrick Scullion, who was killed 11 June 1966 by the Ulster Volunteer Force, to have been the first victim of the conflict.

On 12 July (“The Twelfth“) there was further rioting in Derry, nearby Dungiven, and Belfast. The violence arose out of the yearly Orange Order marches. During the clashes in Dungiven, Catholic civilian Francis McCloskey (67) was beaten with batons by police officers and died of his injuries the following day.

Image result for battle of the bogside

Following these riots, Irish republicans in Derry set up the Derry Citizens Defence Association, with the intention of preparing for future disturbances. The members of the DCDA were initially Republican Club (and possibly IRA) activists, but they were joined by many other left-wing activists and local people. This group stated their aim as firstly to keep the peace, but if this failed, to organise the defence of the Bogside. To this end, they stockpiled materials for barricades and missiles, ahead of the Apprentice Boys of Derry march on 12 August.

The Apprentice Boys march

The Bogside in 2004, looking down from the city walls. The area has been greatly redeveloped since 1969, with the demolition of much of the old slum housing and the Rossville Street flats.

The annual Apprentice Boys parade on 12 August commemorated the Protestant victory in the Siege of Derry in 1689 and was considered highly provocative by many Catholics. Derry activist Eamonn McCann wrote that the march:

“was regarded as a calculated insult to the Derry Catholics”.

Although the march did not pass through the Bogside, it passed close to it at the junction of Waterloo Place and William Street. It was here that trouble broke out. Initially, some loyalists had thrown pennies from the top of the walls at Catholics in the Bogside below, in return marbles where fired by catapult. As the parade passed the perimeter of the Bogside, Catholics hurled stones and nails resulting in an intense confrontation.

The police, who had suffered a barrage of missiles, then moved in. Whilst the police fought with the rioters at William Street, officers at the Rossville Street barricade encouraged civilian Protestants catapulting stones across the barricade at the Catholics. The police then tried to alleviate the pressure they were under by dismantling the barricade.

The result of this was the creation of a gap allowing Protestants through, convincing the Catholic residents that their homes were going to be attacked.

Image result for battle of the bogside

The police were unable to get into the Bogside. Nationalists lobbed petrol bombs from the top of the Rossville Flats, halting the police advance, with 43 of the 59 officers who made the initial incursion injured.

As this happened the people of Derry, numbering in their hundreds, continued to fight each other, with petrol bombs and stones thrown between loyalists and nationalists.

The Battle

The actions of the Bogside residents were co-ordinated to some extent. The Derry Citizens Defence Association set up a headquarters in the house of Paddy Doherty in Westland Street and tried to supervise the making of petrol bombs and the positioning of barricades. They also set up “Radio Free Derry.” Many local people, however, joined in the rioting on their own initiative and impromptu leaders also emerged, such as Bernadette Devlin, Eamonn McCann and others.

Local youths climbed onto the roof of the High Flats on Rossville Street, from where they bombarded the police below with missiles. When the advantage that this position possessed was realised, the youths were kept supplied with stones and petrol bombs.

The police were in many respects badly prepared for the riot. Their riot shields were too small and did not protect their whole bodies. In addition, their uniforms were not flame resistant and a number were badly burned by petrol bombs. They possessed armoured cars and guns, but were not permitted to use them. Moreover, there was no system in place to relieve officers, with the result that the same policemen had to serve in the rioting for three days without rest.

The police responded to this situation by flooding the area with CS gas, which caused a range of respiratory injuries among the local people. A total of 1,091 canisters containing 12.5g of CS; and 14 canisters containing 50g of CS, were released in the densely populated residential area.

After two days of almost continuous rioting, during which police were drafted in from all over Northern Ireland, the police were exhausted, and were snatching sleep in doorways whenever the opportunity allowed.

On 13 August, Jack Lynch, Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland made a televised speech about the events in Derry, in which he said that he “could not stand by and watch innocent people injured and perhaps worse.” He promised to send the Irish Army to the border and to set up field hospitals for those injured in the fighting. Lynch’s words were widely interpreted in the Bogside as promising that Irish troops were about to be sent to their aid. Unionists were appalled at this prospect, which they saw as a threatened invasion of Northern Ireland. In fact, although the Irish Army was indeed sent to the border, they restricted their activities to providing medical care for the injured.

By 14 August, the rioting in the Bogside had reached a critical point. Almost the entire community there had been mobilised by this point, many galvanised by false rumours that St Eugene’s Cathedral had been attacked by the police. The police were also beginning to use firearms. Two rioters were shot and injured in Great James’ Street. The B-Specials, a reserve quasi-military, mostly Protestant police force with no training in crowd control, much feared by Catholics for their alleged role in killings in the 1920s, were called up and sent to Derry, provoking fears of a massacre on the part of the Bogsiders.

James Chichester-Clark 1970.jpg

On the afternoon of the 14th, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, James Chichester-Clark, took the unprecedented step of requesting the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson for troops to be sent to Derry. Soon afterwards a company of the 1st Battalion, Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire (who had been on standby at HMS Sea Eagle) relieved the police, with orders to separate the police and the Bogsiders, but not to attempt to breach the barricades and enter the Bogside itself.

This marked the first direct intervention of the London government in Ireland since partition. The British troops were at first welcomed by the Bogside residents as a neutral force compared to the police and especially the B-Specials.

Only a handful of radicals in Bogside, notably Bernadette Devlin, opposed the deployment of British troops. This good relationship did not last long however, as the Troubles escalated.

Over 1000 people had been injured in the rioting in Derry, but no one was killed. A total of 691 police men were deployed in Derry during the riot, of whom only 255 were still in action at 12.30 on the 15th. Manpower then fluctuated for the rest of the afternoon: the numbers recorded are 318, 304, 374, 333, 285 and finally 327 at 5.30 pm. While some of the fluctuation in numbers can be put down to exhaustion rather than injury, these figures indicate that the police suffered at least 350 serious injuries.

How many Bogsiders were injured is unclear, as many injuries were never reported.

Rioting elsewhere

Image result for Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association

A call by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association for people to stretch police resources to aid the Bogsiders led to rioting in Belfast and elsewhere, which left five Catholics and two Protestants dead.

That same night (the 14th) a loyalist mob burned all of the Catholic homes on Bombay Street. Over 1,500 Catholics were expelled from their homes in Belfast. Taken together with events in Derry, this period of rioting is widely seen  as the point in which The Troubles escalated from a situation of civil unrest to one of a three-way armed conflict between nationalists, state forces and unionists.

See: 13th August – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries 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.

Ulster Defence Association ( U.D.A )

The views and opinions expressed in this page and  documentaries 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.

Ulster Defence Association ( U.D.A )

Men of the UDA

The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) is the largest[5][6] Ulster loyalist paramilitary and vigilante[7] group in Northern Ireland. It was formed in September 1971 and undertook a campaign of almost twenty-four years during The Troubles. Within the UDA was a group tasked with launching paramilitary attacks; it used the covername Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) so that the UDA would not be outlawed. The United Kingdom outlawed the “UFF” in November 1973, but the UDA itself was not classified as a terrorist group until 10 August 1992.[8] The UDA/UFF is also classified as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department.[9]

The UDA were responsible for Approximately 260 deaths during The Troubles.

There are a further 250 loyalist killings where it is not yet certain which group was responsible

Loyalists in Northern Ireland – Full Documentary

The UDA’s/UFF’s declared goal was to defend Ulster Protestant loyalist areas[10] and to combat Irish republicanism, particularly the Provisional IRA. However, most of its victims were unarmed civilians.[11] The majority of them were Irish Catholics,[12][13] killed in what the group called retaliation for IRA actions or attacks on Protestants.[14][15] High-profile attacks carried out by the group include the Milltown massacre, the Sean Graham bookmakers’ shooting, the Castlerock killings and the Greysteel massacre. The vast majority of its attacks were in Northern Ireland, but from 1972 onward it also carried out bombings in the Republic of Ireland. The UDA/UFF declared a ceasefire in 1994, although sporadic attacks continued until it officially ended its armed campaign in November 2007.[16]

The Very British Terrorists – Full

The UDA were often referred to by their Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) rivals as the “Wombles”,[17] derived from the furry fictional creatures, The Wombles, or “Japs”,[18] owing to their mass rallies and marches in combat clothing. Its motto is Quis Separabit, Latin for “Who will separate [us]?”.

History

Beginning

The Ulster Defence Association emerged from a series of meetings during the summer of 1971 of loyalistvigilante” groups called “defence associations”.[19] The largest of these were the Shankill and Woodvale Defence Associations,[20] with other groups based in East Belfast, the Hammer and Roden Street.[21] The first meeting was chaired by Billy Hull, with Alan Moon as its vice-chair. Moon was quickly replaced by Jim Anderson and had left the organisation by the time of its formal launch in September.[22]

By this point, Charles Harding Smith had become the group’s leader, with former British soldier Davy Fogel as his second-in-command, who trained the new recruits in military tactics, the use of guns, and unarmed combat. Its most prominent early spokesperson was Tommy Herron,[19] however Andy Tyrie would emerge as leader soon after.[23] Its original motto was Cedenta Arma Togae (“Law before violence”) and it was a legal organisation until it was banned by the British Government on 10 August 1992.[19]

UDA members marching through Belfast city centre in a massive show of strength, summer 1972

At its peak of strength it held around forty thousand members, mostly part-time.[24][25] During this period of legality, the UDA committed a large number of attacks using the name Ulster Freedom Fighters,[26][27] including the assassination of Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) politician Paddy Wilson in 1973.[28] The UDA was involved in the successful Ulster Workers Council Strike in 1974, which brought down the Sunningdale Agreement—an agreement which some unionists thought conceded too much to nationalist demands. The UDA enforced this general strike through widespread intimidation across Northern Ireland. The strike was led by VUPP Assemblyman and UDA member, Glenn Barr.[29]

The UDA were often referred to as “Wombles” by their rivals, mainly the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). The name is derived from the furry fictional creatures The Wombles, and was given to the UDA because many of its members wore fur-trimmed parkas.[17] Its headquarters is in Gawn Street, off the Newtownards Road in east Belfast,[30] and its current motto is Quis Separabit, which is Latin for “Who will separate us?”

Women’s units

The UDA had several women’s units, which acted independent of each other.[31][32] Although they occasionally helped man roadblocks, the women’s units were typically involved in local community work and responsible for the assembly and delivery of food parcels to UDA prisoners. This was a source of pride for the UDA.[33] The first women’s unit was founded on the Shankill Road by Wendy “Bucket” Millar, whose sons Herbie and James “Sham” Millar would later become prominent UDA members.[34] The UDA women’s department was headed by Jean Moore, who also came from the Shankill Road. She had also served as the president of the women’s auxiliary of the Loyalist Association of Workers. Her brother Ingram “Jock” Beckett, one of the UDA’s founding members, had been killed in March 1972 by a rival UDA faction in an internal dispute.[35] Moore was succeeded by Hester Dunn of east Belfast, who also ran the public relations and administration section at the UDA headquarters.[36] Wendy Millar’s Shankill Road group was a particularly active women’s unit, and another was based in Sandy Row, south Belfast, a traditional UDA stronghold. The latter was commanded by Elizabeth “Lily” Douglas.[37] Her teenaged daughter, Elizabeth was one of the members.[38]

The Sandy Row women’s UDA unit was disbanded after it carried out a vicious “romper room” punishment beating on 24 July 1974 which left 32-year-old Ann Ogilby dead. The body of Ogilby, a Protestant single mother who had an affair with the husband of one of the unit’s members, was found in a ditch five days later.[39] The day of the fatal beating Ogilby was abducted and forced upstairs to the first floor of a disused bakery in Sandy Row that had been converted into a UDA club. Two teenage girls, Henrietta Cowan and Christine Smith,[40] acting under Elizabeth Douglas’ orders to give Ogilby a “good rompering”,[41] punched, kicked, then battered her to death with bricks and sticks; the autopsy later revealed that Ogilby had suffered 24 blows to the head and body. The killing, which was carried out within earshot of Ogilby’s six-year-old daughter, caused widespread revulsion throughout Northern Ireland and was condemned by the UDA prisoners serving inside the Maze Prison. None of the other UDA women’s units had consented to or been aware of the fatal punishment beating until it was reported in the news.[32] Douglas, Cowan, and Smith were convicted of the murder and sentenced to imprisonment at Armagh Women’s Jail. Seven other members of the women’s unit and a UDA man were also convicted for their part in the murder.[41][38] The UDA “romper rooms”, named after the children’s television programme, were places where victims were beaten and tortured prior to being killed. This was known as a “rompering”. The “romper rooms” were normally located in disused buildings, lock-up garages, warehouses, and rooms above pubs and drinking clubs.[42] The use of the “romper rooms” was a more common practise among male members of the UDA than their female counterparts.[32]

Paramilitary campaign

Masked and armed UDA/UFF members at a show of strength in Belfast

The flag of the “Ulster Freedom Fighters” with a clenched fist representing the Red Hand of Ulster and the Latin motto Feriens tego, meaning “striking I defend”

Throughout the majority of its period of legality, the UDA’s attacks were carried out under the name “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (UFF). The UDA’s campaign of violence began in 1972. In May of that year, the UDA’s pressured leader Tommy Herron decided that responsibility for acts of violence committed by the UDA would be claimed by the “UFF”. Its first public statements came one month later.[43]

The UDA’s official position during the Troubles was that if the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provisional IRA) called off its campaign of violence, then it would do the same. However, if the British government announced that it was withdrawing from Northern Ireland, then the UDA would act as “the IRA in reverse.”[44]

Ulster Defence Association – Hunting The IRA (Documentary)

Active throughout the Troubles, its armed campaign gained prominence in the early 1990s through Johnny Adair‘s ruthless leadership of the Lower Shankill 2nd Battalion, C. Company, which resulted in a greater degree of tactical independence for the UFF.[45] C. Company’s hit squad, led by Stephen McKeag, became notorious for a campaign of random murders of Catholic civilians in the first half of the 1990s.[46]

They benefited, along with the Ulster Volunteer Force, and a group called Ulster Resistance (set up by the Democratic Unionist Party), from a shipment of arms imported from Lebanon in 1988.[47] The weapons landed included rocket launchers, 200 rifles, 90 pistols and over 400 grenades.[48] Although almost two–thirds of these weapons were later recovered by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), they enabled the UDA to launch an assassination campaign against their perceived enemies.

A UFF mural in the Kilcooley estate near Bangor

A UFF mural in the Sandy Row area of South Belfast

North Belfast UDA brigadier Davy Payne was arrested after his “scout” car had been stopped at a RUC checkpoint and large caches of the weaponry were discovered in the boots of his associates’ cars. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison.

In 1992 Brian Nelson, a prominent UDA member convicted of sectarian killings, revealed that he was also a British Army agent. This led to allegations that the British Army and RUC were helping the UDA to target Irish republican activists. UDA members have since confirmed that they received intelligence files on republicans from British Army and RUC intelligence sources.[49]

One of the most high profile UDA attacks came in October 1993, when three masked men attacked a restaurant called the Rising Sun in the predominantly Catholic village of Greysteel, County Londonderry, where two hundred people were celebrating Halloween. The two men entered and opened fire. Eight people, including six Catholics and two Protestants were killed and nineteen wounded in what became known as the Greysteel massacre. The UFF claimed the attack was in retaliation to the IRA’s Shankill Road bombing which killed nine, seven days earlier.

The Shankill Bombing

The Greysteel shootings

According to the Sutton database of deaths at the University of Ulster‘s CAIN project,[50] the UDA/UFF was responsible for 259 killings during the Troubles. 208 of its victims were civilians (predominantly Catholics), 12 were civilian political activists (mainly members of Sinn Fein), 37 were other loyalist paramilitaries (including 30 of its own members), three were members of the security forces and 11 were republican paramilitaries. A number of these attacks were carried out with the assistance or complicity of the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, or both, according to the Stevens Enquiry, although the exact number of people killed as a result of collusion has not been revealed. The preferred modus operandi of the UDA was individual killings of select civilian targets in nationalist areas, rather than large-scale bomb or mortar attacks.

The UDA employed various codewords whenever they claimed their attacks. These included: “The Crucible”, “Titanic”, and “Ulster Troubles”. The UFF used the codename of “Captain Black”.

Post-ceasefire activities

Its ceasefire was welcomed by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Paul Murphy and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Hugh Orde.

A UDA/UFF mural in Belfast

A UFF flag in Finvoy,a rural area of County Antrim

Since the ceasefire, the UDA has been accused of taking vigilante action against alleged drug dealers, including tarring and feathering a man on the Taughmonagh estate in south Belfast.[51][52] It has also been involved in several feuds with the UVF, which led to many killings. The UDA has also been riddled by its own internecine warfare, with self-styled “brigadiers” and former figures of power and influence, such as Johnny Adair and Jim Gray (themselves bitter rivals), falling rapidly in and out of favour with the rest of the leadership. Gray and John Gregg are amongst those to have been killed during the internal strife. On 22 February 2003, the UDA announced a “12-month period of military inactivity”.[53] It said it would review its ceasefire every three months. The UPRG’s Frankie Gallagher has since taken a leading role in ending the association between the UDA and drug dealing.[54]

Following an August 2005 Sunday World article that poked fun at the gambling losses of one of its leaders, the UDA banned the sale of the newspaper from shops in areas it controls. Shops that defy the ban have suffered arson attacks, and at least one newsagent was threatened with death.[55] The Police Service of Northern Ireland began accompanying the paper’s delivery vans.[56][57] The UDA was also considered to have played an instrumental role in loyalist riots in Belfast in September 2005.[58]

On 13 November 2005 the UDA announced that it would “consider its future”, in the wake of the standing down of the Provisional IRA and Loyalist Volunteer Force.[59]

In February 2006, the Independent Monitoring Commission reported UDA involvement in organised crime, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, extortion, money laundering and robbery.[60]

A UDA/UFF mural in Bangor

On 20 June 2006, the UDA expelled Andre Shoukri and his brother Ihab, two of its senior members who were heavily involved in crime. Some see this as a sign that the UDA is slowly coming away from crime.[61] The move did see the southeast Antrim brigade of the UDA, which had been at loggerheads with the leadership for some time, support Shoukri and break away under former UPRG spokesman Tommy Kirkham.[62] Other senior members met with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for talks on 13 July in the same year.[63]

On 11 November 2007 the UDA announced that the Ulster Freedom Fighters would be stood down from midnight of the same day,[64] with its weapons “being put beyond use” although it stressed that these would not be decommissioned.[65]

Although the group expressed a willingness to move from criminal activity to “community development,” the IMC said it saw little evidence of this move because of the views of its members and the lack of coherence in the group’s leadership as a result of a loose structure. While the report indicated the leadership intends to follow on its stated goals, factionalism hindered this change. Factionalism was, in fact, said to be the strongest hindrance to progress. The report also said the main non-splintered faction remained active, though it was considerably smaller than the resulting party. Individuals within the group, however, took their own initiative to criminal activity. Although loyalist actions were curtailed, most of the loyalist activity did come from the UDA.

The IMC report concluded that the leadership’s willingness to change has resulted in community tension and the group would continue to be monitored, although “the mainstream UDA still has some way to go.” Furthermore, the IMC warned the group to “recognise that the organisation’s time as a paramilitary group has passed and that decommissioning is inevitable.” Decommissioning was said to be the “biggest outstanding issue for loyalist leaders, although not the only one.”[66]

A UDA/UFF South-East Antrim Brigade mural in Newtownabbey

On 6 January 2010, the UDA announced that it had put its weapons “verifiably beyond use”.[67] The decommissioning was completed five weeks before a government amnesty deadline beyond which any weapons found could have been used as evidence for a prosecution.[67] The decommissioning was confirmed by Canadian General John de Chastelain, chairman of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, as well as Lord Eames, former Archbishop of Armagh and Sir George Quigley, former top civil servant.[68]

Chastelain stated that the decommissioning included arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices and the UDA stated that the arms “constitute the totality of those under their control”.[67] Following the decommissioning the Ulster Political Research Group, the UDA’s political representatives, stated that the “Ulster Defence Association was formed to defend our communities; we state quite clearly and categorically that this responsibility now rests with the Government and its institutions where legitimacy resides”.[68] UDA representative Frankie Gallagher also stated that the group now regretted being responsible for the killing of more than 400 people.[69]

Shaun Woodward, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stated that this “is a major act of leadership by the UDA and further comprehensive evidence of the success of politics over violence in Northern Ireland” and the act was also welcomed by Sinn Féin and DUP politicians.[70] The President of the Republic of Ireland, Mary McAleese, described the decommissioning as “a very positive milestone on the journey of peace”.[71] US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also welcomed the move as a step towards lasting peace in Northern Ireland.[72]

South East Antrim breakaway group

The breakaway faction continues to use the “UDA” title in its name, although it too expressed willingness to move towards “community development.” Though serious crime is not prevalent among the members, some who were arrested for drug peddling and extortion were exiled by the Brigade. Although a clear distinction between the factions was not available in the 20th IMC report, as this was the first report to differentiate between the two, future reports would tackle the differences.[66]

Politics

Some UDA leaders supported an independent Northern Ireland in the mid–late 1970s

In the 1970s the group favoured Northern Ireland independence, but they have retreated from this position.[73]

The New Ulster Political Research Group (NUPRG) was initially the political wing of the UDA, founded in 1978, which then evolved into the Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party in 1981 under the leadership of John McMichael, a prominent UDA member killed by the IRA in 1987, amid suspicion that he was set up to be killed by some of his UDA colleagues.

Funeral of John McMichael

In 1987, the UDA’s deputy commander John McMichael (who was then the leader of the UFF) promoted a document titled “Common Sense”, which promoted a consensual end to the conflict in Northern Ireland, while maintaining the Union. The document advocated a power sharing assembly, involving both Nationalists and Unionists, an agreed constitution and new Bill of Rights. It is not clear however, whether this programme was adopted by the UDA as their official policy.[48] However the killing of McMichael that same year and the subsequent removal of Tyrie from the leadership and his replacement with an Inner Council saw the UDA concentrate on stockpiling weapons rather than political ideas.[74]

In 1989, the ULDP changed its name to the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) and finally dissolved itself in 2001 following very limited electoral success. Gary McMichael, son of John McMichael, was the last leader of the UDP, which supported the signing of the Good Friday Agreement but had poor electoral success and internal difficulties. The Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) was subsequently formed to give political analysis to the UDA and act as community workers in loyalist areas. It is currently represented on the Belfast City Council.

In early January 1994, the UDA released a document calling for ethnic cleansing and repartition, with the goal of making Northern Ireland wholly Protestant.[75] The plan was to be implemented should the British Army withdraw from Northern Ireland. The vastly Catholic and nationalist areas would be handed over to the Republic, and those left stranded in the “Protestant state” would be “expelled, nullified, or interned”.[75] The story was printed in The Sunday Independent newspaper on 16 January.[76] The “doomsday plan” was based on the work of Dr Liam Kennedy, a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast.[75] In 1986 he had published a book called Two Ulsters: A Case for Repartition; though it did not call for ethnic cleansing. The UDP’s Raymond Smallwoods said “I wasn’t consulted but the scenario set out is a perfectly plausible one”.[75] The DUP’s Sammy Wilson stated that the plan “shows that some loyalist paramilitaries are looking ahead and contemplating what needs to be done to maintain our separate Ulster identity”.[75]

Links with other groups

In his book Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke claimed that the UDA had links with Neo-Nazi groups in Britain—specifically Combat 18[77] (formed in 1991) and the British National Socialist Movement[78] (formed in 1985). He claims that members of these groups helped to smuggle weapons for the UDA/UFF. Ian S Wood‘s book Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA claims that the UDA has received backing from Combat 18, the British National Front and the British National Party.[79] In 2006, the BBC also reported that the group has links with Combat 18.[80] It is unknown whether these links still exist. The links may not have been politically motivated, but mutually beneficial arms deals. On one occasion the UDA sent Louis Scott, one of a few black members of the UDA, to make the transaction.[81]

The Red Hand Defenders is a cover name used by breakaway factions of the UDA/UFF and the LVF.[1] The term was originally coined in 1997 when members of the LVF carried out attacks on behalf of Johnny Adair‘s “UFF 2nd Battalion, ‘C’ Company (Shankill Road)” and vice versa.[1] The relationship between the UDA/UFF (specifically Adair’s unit, not the wider leadership of the UDA) was initially formed after the death of Billy Wright, the previous leader of the LVF, and Adair’s personal friendship with Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton, the organisations new chief.

The necessity for a cover name resulted from the need to avoid tensions between the UDA and the UVF, the organisation from which the LVF had broken away. It was perceived that any open co-operation between the UDA and the LVF would anger the UVF, something which proved to be the case in following years and resulted in the infamous ‘Loyalist Feud’.[1] There has been debate as to whether or not the Red Hand Defenders have become an entity in their own right[82] made up of dissident factions from both the UDA and the LVF (both of which have now declared ceasefires whilst the RHD has not), though much intelligence has been based on the claims of responsibility which, as has been suggested,[1] are frequently misleading.

Structure and leadership

The UDA is made up of:

  • the Inner Council
  • the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)—whose role was to carry out attacks on republican and nationalist targets. However, many regard the UFF as merely a covername used when the UDA wished to claim responsibility for attacks.[83]
  • the Ulster Defence Force (UDF)—whose role was to give “specialist military training” to a select group of UDA members. The UDF was initiated by John McMichael[84] (the then UDA/UFF commander) in 1985 as a response to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The UDF operated training camps in rural parts of Northern Ireland that young loyalists such as Johnny Adair claim to have attended.[84] One reported ‘survival’ training technique was to leave trainees stranded in Dublin with only £1.[84] Some of the training was given by former British Army soldiers and officers. It was described by the UDA as “the nucleus of a new loyalist army at the ready”.[85]
  • the Ulster Young Militants (UYM)—the “youth wing” of the group. Formed in 1973.[86]
  • the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG)—the UDA’s “political advisory body”. Formed in 1978.[87]

The UDA operated a devolved structure of leadership, each with a brigadier representing one of its six “brigade areas”.[84] Currently, it is not entirely clear whether or not this structure has been maintained in the UDA’s post cease-fire state. The UDA’s six “brigade areas” were:

  • North Belfast
  • East Belfast
  • South Belfast, the UDA’s largest brigade area, covering all of South Belfast down to Lisburn and operating as far away as South County Down, Lurgan and Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh.[88]
  • West Belfast
  • Southeast [County] Antrim
  • North County Antrim & County Londonderry

A wall sign in Dervock showing support for the North Antrim and Londonderry brigade.

In addition to these six core brigades two others may have existed. A seventh Mid-Ulster Brigade is mentioned by Steve Bruce as having existed for part of the UDA’s history[89] although Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack characterise this as a “battalion” rather than a brigade and suggest that its rural location prevented it from fully developing.[90] In the late 1970s a Scottish Brigade was established under the command of Roddy McDonald but this proved short-lived. The security forces infiltrated this brigade almost immediately and in 1979 arrested almost its entire membership, ninety people in all. Six members received particularly lengthy prison sentences for their involvement in UDA activities in Perth and the Scottish Brigade quietly disappeared.[91]

Some of the notable past brigadiers include:

Jackie McDonald

South Belfast (~1980s-present)[92] Resident of the Taughmonagh estate in South Belfast.[92] McDonald was a cautious supporter of the UDA’s ceasefire and a harsh critic of Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair during his final years of membership of the organisation.[92] McDonald remains the only brigadier who did not have a commonly used nickname.

Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair—West Belfast (1990–2002)[84] An active figure in the UDA/UFF, Adair rose to notoriety in the early 1990s when he led the 2nd Battalion, C Company unit in West Belfast which was responsible for one of the bloodiest killing sprees of the Troubles.[84]

Jim ‘Doris Day’ Gray

East Belfast (1992–2005)[84][93] An unlikely figure in Northern Ireland loyalism, the openly bi-sexual[84] Gray was a controversial figure in the organisation until his death on 4 October 2005. Always flamboyantly dressed, Gray was a key figure in the UDA’s negotiations with Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid. It is widely believed that Gray received his nickname from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch.[84]

Jimbo ‘Bacardi Brigadier’ Simpson—North Belfast (Unknown–2002)[84] Simpson is believed to have been an alcoholic, hence his nickname. He was leader of the UDA in the volatile North Belfast area, an interface between Catholics and Protestants in the New Lodge and Tiger’s Bay neighbourhoods.[84]

Billy ‘The Mexican’ McFarland—North Antrim and Londonderry (Unknown–2013)[84] He Earned his nickname because of his moustache and swarthy appearance, and had overall command of the UDA’s North Antrim and Derry brigade at the time of the Good Friday Agreement. He supported the leadership against Johnny Adair and has been associated with the magazine ‘Warrior’, which makes the case for Ulster Independence

Andre ‘The Egyptian’ Shoukri[84]

North Belfast (2002–2005)[84] Initially a close ally of Johnny Adair, Shoukri and his brother Ihab became involved with the UDA in his native North Belfast. The son of an Egyptian father and a Northern Irish mother, he was expelled from the UDA in 2005 following allegations of criminality.

John ‘Grug’ Gregg

South East Antrim (c.1993[94]–2003) John ‘Grug’ Gregg was a man with a fearsome reputation within the loyalist movement, known as a “Hawk” in loyalist circles, and controlled the streets of south east Antrim. On 14 March 1984, he severely wounded Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in an assassination attempt for which he was jailed. When asked by the BBC in prison if he regretted anything about the shooting, his reply was “only that I didn’t succeed.” He was killed on Belfast’s Nelson Street, along with another UDA member (Rab Carson), while travelling in a taxi from the docks in 2003, and the murder was blamed on supporters of Johnny Adair, who had recently been expelled from the UDA in 2002.

Deaths as a result of activity

UDA South Belfast Brigade memorial plaque in Sandy Row

According to Malcolm Sutton’s Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland (part of the CAIN database), the UDA/UFF was responsible for at least 260 killings during the Troubles, between 1969 and 2001. There are a further 250 loyalist killings where it is not yet certain which group was responsible.[95]

Of those killed by the UDA/UFF:[11]

  • 209 (~80%) were civilians, 12 of whom were civilian political activists
  • 11 (~4%) were members or former members of republican paramilitary groups
  • 37 (~14%) were members or former members of loyalist paramilitary groups
  • 3 (~1%) were members of the British security forces

There were also 91 UDA members and four former members killed in the conflict.[96]

See also

UDA – UVF – Loyalists in Northern Ireland – Full Documentary

Loyalists in Northern Ireland – Full Documentary

UDA (Ulster Defence Association)

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this post and page 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

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Belfast Shankill Loyalist Bands

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The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) is the largest[5][6] Ulster loyalist paramilitary and vigilante[7] group in Northern Ireland. It was formed in September 1971 and undertook a campaign of almost twenty-four years during The Troubles. Within the UDA was a group tasked with launching paramilitary attacks; it used the covername Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) so that the UDA would not be outlawed. The United Kingdom outlawed the “UFF” in November 1973, but the UDA itself was not classified as a terrorist group until 10 August 1992.[8] The UDA/UFF is also classified as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department.[9]

The UDA’s/UFF’s declared goal was to defend Ulster Protestant loyalist areas[10] and to combat Irish republicanism, particularly the Provisional IRA. However, most of its victims were unarmed civilians.[11] The majority of them were Irish Catholics,[12][13] killed in what the group called retaliation for IRA actions or attacks on Protestants.[14][15] High-profile attacks carried out by the group include the Milltown massacre, the Sean Graham bookmakers’ shooting, the Castlerock killings and the Greysteel massacre. The vast majority of its attacks were in Northern Ireland, but from 1972 onward it also carried out bombings in the Republic of Ireland. The UDA/UFF declared a ceasefire in 1994, although sporadic attacks continued until it officially ended its armed campaign in November 2007.[16]

The UDA were often referred to by their Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) rivals as the “Wombles”,[17] derived from the furry fictional creatures, The Wombles, or “Japs”,[18] owing to their mass rallies and marches in combat clothing. Its motto is Quis Separabit, Latin for “Who will separate [us]?”.

History

Beginning

The Ulster Defence Association emerged from a series of meetings during the summer of 1971 of loyalistvigilante” groups called “defence associations”.[19] The largest of these were the Shankill and Woodvale Defence Associations,[20] with other groups based in East Belfast, the Hammer and Roden Street.[21] The first meeting was chaired by Billy Hull, with Alan Moon as its vice-chair. Moon was quickly replaced by Jim Anderson and had left the organisation by the time of its formal launch in September.[22]

By this point, Charles Harding Smith had become the group’s leader, with former British soldier Davy Fogel as his second-in-command, who trained the new recruits in military tactics, the use of guns, and unarmed combat. Its most prominent early spokesperson was Tommy Herron,[19] however Andy Tyrie would emerge as leader soon after.[23] Its original motto was Cedenta Arma Togae (“Law before violence”) and it was a legal organisation until it was banned by the British Government on 10 August 1992.[19]

UDA members marching through Belfast city centre in a massive show of strength, summer 1972

At its peak of strength it held around forty thousand members, mostly part-time.[24][25] During this period of legality, the UDA committed a large number of attacks using the name Ulster Freedom Fighters,[26][27] including the assassination of Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) politician Paddy Wilson in 1973.[28] The UDA was involved in the successful Ulster Workers Council Strike in 1974, which brought down the Sunningdale Agreement—an agreement which some unionists thought conceded too much to nationalist demands. The UDA enforced this general strike through widespread intimidation across Northern Ireland. The strike was led by VUPP Assemblyman and UDA member, Glenn Barr.[29]

The UDA were often referred to as “Wombles” by their rivals, mainly the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). The name is derived from the furry fictional creatures The Wombles, and was given to the UDA because many of its members wore fur-trimmed parkas.[17] Its headquarters is in Gawn Street, off the Newtownards Road in east Belfast,[30] and its current motto is Quis Separabit, which is Latin for “Who will separate us?”

Women’s units

The UDA had several women’s units, which acted independent of each other.[31][32] Although they occasionally helped man roadblocks, the women’s units were typically involved in local community work and responsible for the assembly and delivery of food parcels to UDA prisoners. This was a source of pride for the UDA.[33] The first women’s unit was founded on the Shankill Road by Wendy “Bucket” Millar (b. 1944), whose sons Herbie and James “Sham” Millar would later become prominent UDA members.[34] The UDA women’s department was headed by Jean Moore, who also came from the Shankill Road. She had also served as the president of the women’s auxiliary Loyalist Association of Workers. Her brother Ingram “Jock” Beckett, one of the UDA’s founding members, had been killed in March 1972 by a rival UDA faction in an internal dispute.[35] Moore was succeeded by Hester Dunn of east Belfast, who also ran the Public Relations and administration section at the UDA headquarters.[36] Wendy Millar’s Shankill Road group was a particularly active women’s unit, and another was based in Sandy Row, south Belfast – a traditional UDA stronghold. The latter was commanded by Elizabeth “Lily” Douglas.[37] Her teenaged daughter, Elizabeth was one of the members.[38]

The Sandy Row women’s UDA unit was disbanded after it carried out a vicious “romper room” punishment beating on 24 July 1974 which left 32-year-old Ann Ogilby dead. The body of Ogilby, a Protestant single mother who had an affair with the husband of one of the unit’s members, was found in a ditch five days later.[39] The day of the fatal beating Ogilby was abducted and forced upstairs to the first floor of a disused bakery in Sandy Row that had been converted into a UDA club. Two teenage girls, Henrietta Cowan and Christine Smith,[40] acting under Elizabeth Douglas’ orders to give Ogilby a “good rompering”,[41] punched, kicked, then battered her to death with bricks and sticks; the autopsy later revealed that Ogilby had suffered 24 blows to the head and body. The killing, which was carried out within earshot of Ogilby’s six-year-old daughter, caused widespread revulsion throughout Northern Ireland and was condemned by the UDA prisoners serving inside the Maze Prison. None of the other UDA women’s units had consented to or been aware of the fatal punishment beating until it was reported in the news.[32] Douglas, Cowan, and Smith were convicted of the murder and sentenced to imprisonment at Armagh Women’s Jail. Seven other members of the women’s unit and a UDA man were also convicted for their part in the murder.[41][38] At the time of the murder the Sandy Row commander was Sammy Murphy, who also ran the South Belfast UDA. He had engaged in successful talks with the British Army to defuse a potential confrontation during the UWC strike over the erection of street barricades in the Sandy Row area.[42][43] The UDA “romper rooms”, named after the children’s television programme, were places where victims were beaten and tortured prior to being killed. This was known as a “rompering”. The “romper rooms” were normally located in disused buildings, lock-up garages, warehouses, and rooms above pubs and drinking clubs.[44] The use of the “romper rooms” was a more common practise among male members of the UDA than their female counterparts.[32]

Paramilitary campaign

Masked and armed UDA/UFF members at a show of strength in Belfast

The flag of the “Ulster Freedom Fighters” with a clenched fist representing the Red Hand of Ulster and the Latin motto Feriens tego, meaning “striking I defend”

Throughout the majority of its period of legality, the UDA’s attacks were carried out under the name “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (UFF). The UDA’s campaign of violence began in 1972. In May of that year, the UDA’s pressured leader Tommy Herron decided that responsibility for acts of violence committed by the UDA would be claimed by the “UFF”. Its first public statements came one month later.[45]

The UDA’s official position during the Troubles was that if the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provisional IRA) called off its campaign of violence, then it would do the same. However, if the British government announced that it was withdrawing from Northern Ireland, then the UDA would act as “the IRA in reverse.”[46]

Active throughout the Troubles, its armed campaign gained prominence in the early 1990s through Johnny Adair‘s ruthless leadership of the Lower Shankill 2nd Battalion, C. Company, which resulted in a greater degree of tactical independence for the UFF.[47] C. Company’s hit squad, led by Stephen McKeag, became notorious for a campaign of random murders of Catholic civilians in the first half of the 1990s.[48]

They benefited, along with the Ulster Volunteer Force, and a group called Ulster Resistance (set up by the Democratic Unionist Party), from a shipment of arms imported from Lebanon in 1988.[49] The weapons landed included rocket launchers, 200 rifles, 90 pistols and over 400 grenades.[50] Although almost two–thirds of these weapons were later recovered by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), they enabled the UDA to launch an assassination campaign against their perceived enemies.

A UFF mural in the Kilcooley estate near Bangor

A UFF mural in the Sandy Row area of South Belfast

North Belfast UDA brigadier Davy Payne was arrested after his “scout” car had been stopped at a RUC checkpoint and large caches of the weaponry were discovered in the boots of his associates’ cars. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison.

In 1992 Brian Nelson, a prominent UDA member convicted of sectarian killings, revealed that he was also a British Army agent. This led to allegations that the British Army and RUC were helping the UDA to target Irish republican activists. UDA members have since confirmed that they received intelligence files on republicans from British Army and RUC intelligence sources.[51]

One of the most high profile UDA attacks came in October 1993, when three masked men attacked a restaurant called the Rising Sun in the predominantly Catholic village of Greysteel, County Londonderry, where two hundred people were celebrating Halloween. The two men entered and opened fire. Eight people, including six Catholics and two Protestants were killed and nineteen wounded in what became known as the Greysteel massacre. The UFF claimed the attack was in retaliation to the IRA’s Shankill Road bombing which killed nine, seven days earlier.

According to the Sutton database of deaths at the University of Ulster‘s CAIN project,[52] the UDA/UFF was responsible for 259 killings during the Troubles. 208 of its victims were civilians (predominantly Catholics), 12 were civilian political activists (mainly members of Sinn Fein), 37 were other loyalist paramilitaries (including 30 of its own members), three were members of the security forces and 11 were republican paramilitaries. A number of these attacks were carried out with the assistance or complicity of the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, or both, according to the Stevens Enquiry, although the exact number of people killed as a result of collusion has not been revealed. The preferred modus operandi of the UDA was individual killings of select civilian targets in nationalist areas, rather than large-scale bomb or mortar attacks.

The UDA employed various codewords whenever they claimed their attacks. These included: “The Crucible”, “Titanic”, and “Ulster Troubles”. The UFF used the codename of “Captain Black”.

Post-ceasefire activities

Its ceasefire was welcomed by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Paul Murphy and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Hugh Orde.

A UDA/UFF mural in Belfast

A UFF flag in Finvoy,a rural area of County Antrim

Since the ceasefire, the UDA has been accused of taking vigilante action against alleged drug dealers, including tarring and feathering a man on the Taughmonagh estate in south Belfast.[53][54] It has also been involved in several feuds with the UVF, which led to many killings. The UDA has also been riddled by its own internecine warfare, with self-styled “brigadiers” and former figures of power and influence, such as Johnny Adair and Jim Gray (themselves bitter rivals), falling rapidly in and out of favour with the rest of the leadership. Gray and John Gregg are amongst those to have been killed during the internal strife. On 22 February 2003, the UDA announced a “12-month period of military inactivity”.[55] It said it would review its ceasefire every three months. The UPRG’s Frankie Gallagher has since taken a leading role in ending the association between the UDA and drug dealing.[56]

Following an August 2005 Sunday World article that poked fun at the gambling losses of one of its leaders, the UDA banned the sale of the newspaper from shops in areas it controls. Shops that defy the ban have suffered arson attacks, and at least one newsagent was threatened with death.[57] The Police Service of Northern Ireland began accompanying the paper’s delivery vans.[58][59] The UDA was also considered to have played an instrumental role in loyalist riots in Belfast in September 2005.[60]

On 13 November 2005 the UDA announced that it would “consider its future”, in the wake of the standing down of the Provisional IRA and Loyalist Volunteer Force.[61]

In February 2006, the Independent Monitoring Commission reported UDA involvement in organised crime, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, extortion, money laundering and robbery.[62]

A UDA/UFF mural in Bangor

On 20 June 2006, the UDA expelled Andre Shoukri and his brother Ihab, two of its senior members who were heavily involved in crime. Some see this as a sign that the UDA is slowly coming away from crime.[63] The move did see the southeast Antrim brigade of the UDA, which had been at loggerheads with the leadership for some time, support Shoukri and break away under former UPRG spokesman Tommy Kirkham.[64] Other senior members met with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for talks on 13 July in the same year.[65]

On 11 November 2007 the UDA announced that the Ulster Freedom Fighters would be stood down from midnight of the same day,[66] with its weapons “being put beyond use” although it stressed that these would not be decommissioned.[67]

Although the group expressed a willingness to move from criminal activity to “community development,” the IMC said it saw little evidence of this move because of the views of its members and the lack of coherence in the group’s leadership as a result of a loose structure. While the report indicated the leadership intends to follow on its stated goals, factionalism hindered this change. Factionalism was, in fact, said to be the strongest hindrance to progress. The report also said the main non-splintered faction remained active, though it was considerably smaller than the resulting party. Individuals within the group, however, took their own initiative to criminal activity. Although loyalist actions were curtailed, most of the loyalist activity did come from the UDA.

The IMC report concluded that the leadership’s willingness to change has resulted in community tension and the group would continue to be monitored, although “the mainstream UDA still has some way to go.” Furthermore, the IMC warned the group to “recognise that the organisation’s time as a paramilitary group has passed and that decommissioning is inevitable.” Decommissioning was said to be the “biggest outstanding issue for loyalist leaders, although not the only one.”[68]

A UDA/UFF South-East Antrim Brigade mural in Newtownabbey

On 6 January 2010, the UDA announced that it had put its weapons “verifiably beyond use”.[69] The decommissioning was completed five weeks before a government amnesty deadline beyond which any weapons found could have been used as evidence for a prosecution.[69] The decommissioning was confirmed by Canadian General John de Chastelain, chairman of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, as well as Lord Eames, former Archbishop of Armagh and Sir George Quigley, former top civil servant.[70]

Chastelain stated that the decommissioning included arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices and the UDA stated that the arms “constitute the totality of those under their control”.[69] Following the decommissioning the Ulster Political Research Group, the UDA’s political representatives, stated that the “Ulster Defence Association was formed to defend our communities; we state quite clearly and categorically that this responsibility now rests with the Government and its institutions where legitimacy resides”.[70] UDA representative Frankie Gallagher also stated that the group now regretted being responsible for the killing of more than 400 people.[71]

Shaun Woodward, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stated that this “is a major act of leadership by the UDA and further comprehensive evidence of the success of politics over violence in Northern Ireland” and the act was also welcomed by Sinn Féin and DUP politicians.[72] The President of the Republic of Ireland, Mary McAleese, described the decommissioning as “a very positive milestone on the journey of peace”.[73] US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also welcomed the move as a step towards lasting peace in Northern Ireland.[74]

South East Antrim breakaway group

The breakaway faction continues to use the “UDA” title in its name, although it too expressed willingness to move towards “community development.” Though serious crime is not prevalent among the members, some who were arrested for drug peddling and extortion were exiled by the Brigade. Although a clear distinction between the factions was not available in the 20th IMC report, as this was the first report to differentiate between the two, future reports would tackle the differences.[68]

Politics

Some UDA leaders supported an independent Northern Ireland in the mid–late 1970s

In the 1970s the group favoured Northern Ireland independence, but they have retreated from this position.[75]

The New Ulster Political Research Group (NUPRG) was initially the political wing of the UDA, founded in 1978, which then evolved into the Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party in 1981 under the leadership of John McMichael, a prominent UDA member killed by the IRA in 1987, amid suspicion that he was set up to be killed by some of his UDA colleagues.

In 1987, the UDA’s deputy commander John McMichael (who was then the leader of the UFF) promoted a document titled “Common Sense”, which promoted a consensual end to the conflict in Northern Ireland, while maintaining the Union. The document advocated a power sharing assembly, involving both Nationalists and Unionists, an agreed constitution and new Bill of Rights. It is not clear however, whether this programme was adopted by the UDA as their official policy.[50] However the killing of McMichael that same year and the subsequent removal of Tyrie from the leadership and his replacement with an Inner Council saw the UDA concentrate on stockpiling weapons rather than political ideas.[76]

In 1989, the ULDP changed its name to the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) and finally dissolved itself in 2001 following very limited electoral success. Gary McMichael, son of John McMichael, was the last leader of the UDP, which supported the signing of the Good Friday Agreement but had poor electoral success and internal difficulties. The Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) was subsequently formed to give political analysis to the UDA and act as community workers in loyalist areas. It is currently represented on the Belfast City Council.

In early January 1994, the UDA released a document calling for ethnic cleansing and repartition, with the goal of making Northern Ireland wholly Protestant.[77] The plan was to be implemented should the British Army withdraw from Northern Ireland. The vastly Catholic and nationalist areas would be handed over to the Republic, and those left stranded in the “Protestant state” would be “expelled, nullified, or interned”.[77] The story was printed in The Sunday Independent newspaper on 16 January.[78] The “doomsday plan” was based on the work of Dr Liam Kennedy, a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast.[77] In 1986 he had published a book called Two Ulsters: A Case for Repartition; though it did not call for ethnic cleansing. The UDP’s Raymond Smallwoods said “I wasn’t consulted but the scenario set out is a perfectly plausible one”.[77] The DUP’s Sammy Wilson stated that the plan “shows that some loyalist paramilitaries are looking ahead and contemplating what needs to be done to maintain our separate Ulster identity”.[77]

Links with other groups

In his book Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke claimed that the UDA had links with Neo-Nazi groups in Britain—specifically Combat 18[79] (formed in 1991) and the British National Socialist Movement[80] (formed in 1985). He claims that members of these groups helped to smuggle weapons for the UDA/UFF. Ian S Wood‘s book Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA claims that the UDA has received backing from Combat 18, the British National Front and the British National Party.[81] In 2006, the BBC also reported that the group has links with Combat 18.[82] It is unknown whether these links still exist. The links may not have been politically motivated, but mutually beneficial arms deals. On one occasion the UDA sent Louis Scott, one of a few black members of the UDA, to make the transaction.[83]

The Red Hand Defenders is a cover name used by breakaway factions of the UDA/UFF and the LVF.[1] The term was originally coined in 1997 when members of the LVF carried out attacks on behalf of Johnny Adair‘s “UFF 2nd Battalion, ‘C’ Company (Shankill Road)” and vice versa.[1] The relationship between the UDA/UFF (specifically Adair’s unit, not the wider leadership of the UDA) was initially formed after the death of Billy Wright, the previous leader of the LVF, and Adair’s personal friendship with Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton, the organisations new chief.

The necessity for a cover name resulted from the need to avoid tensions between the UDA and the UVF, the organisation from which the LVF had broken away. It was perceived that any open co-operation between the UDA and the LVF would anger the UVF, something which proved to be the case in following years and resulted in the infamous ‘Loyalist Feud’.[1] There has been debate as to whether or not the Red Hand Defenders have become an entity in their own right[84] made up of dissident factions from both the UDA and the LVF (both of which have now declared ceasefires whilst the RHD has not), though much intelligence has been based on the claims of responsibility which, as has been suggested,[1] are frequently misleading.

Structure and leadership

The UDA is made up of:

  • the Inner Council
  • the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)—whose role was to carry out attacks on republican and nationalist targets. However, many regard the UFF as merely a covername used when the UDA wished to claim responsibility for attacks.[85]
  • the Ulster Defence Force (UDF)—whose role was to give “specialist military training” to a select group of UDA members. The UDF was initiated by John McMichael[86] (the then UDA/UFF commander) in 1985 as a response to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The UDF operated training camps in rural parts of Northern Ireland that young loyalists such as Johnny Adair claim to have attended.[86] One reported ‘survival’ training technique was to leave trainees stranded in Dublin with only £1.[86] Some of the training was given by former British Army soldiers and officers. It was described by the UDA as “the nucleus of a new loyalist army at the ready”.[87]
  • the Ulster Young Militants (UYM)—the “youth wing” of the group. Formed in 1973.[88]
  • the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG)—the UDA’s “political advisory body”. Formed in 1978.[89]

The UDA operated a devolved structure of leadership, each with a brigadier representing one of its six “brigade areas”.[86] Currently, it is not entirely clear whether or not this structure has been maintained in the UDA’s post cease-fire state. The UDA’s six “brigade areas” were:

  • North Belfast
  • East Belfast
  • South Belfast, the UDA’s largest brigade area, covering all of South Belfast down to Lisburn and operating as far away as South County Down, Lurgan and Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh.[90]
  • West Belfast
  • Southeast [County] Antrim
  • North County Antrim & County Londonderry

A wall sign in Dervock showing support for the North Antrim and Londonderry brigade.

In addition to these six core brigades two others may have existed. A seventh Mid-Ulster Brigade is mentioned by Steve Bruce as having existed for part of the UDA’s history[91] although Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack characterise this as a “battalion” rather than a brigade and suggest that its rural location prevented it from fully developing.[92] In the late 1970s a Scottish Brigade was established under the command of Roddy McDonald but this proved short-lived. The security forces infiltrated this brigade almost immediately and in 1979 arrested almost its entire membership, ninety people in all. Six members received particularly lengthy prison sentences for their involvement in UDA activities in Perth and the Scottish Brigade quietly disappeared.[93]

Some of the notable past brigadiers include:

Jackie McDonald—South Belfast (~1980s-present)[94] Resident of the Taughmonagh estate in South Belfast.[94] McDonald was a cautious supporter of the UDA’s ceasefire and a harsh critic of Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair during his final years of membership of the organisation.[94] McDonald remains the only brigadier who did not have a commonly used nickname.

Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair—West Belfast (1990–2002)[86] An active figure in the UDA/UFF, Adair rose to notoriety in the early 1990s when he led the 2nd Battalion, C Company unit in West Belfast which was responsible for one of the bloodiest killing sprees of the Troubles.[86]

Jim ‘Doris Day’ Gray—East Belfast (1992–2005)[86][95] An unlikely figure in Northern Ireland loyalism, the openly bi-sexual[86] Gray was a controversial figure in the organisation until his death on 4 October 2005. Always flamboyantly dressed, Gray was a key figure in the UDA’s negotiations with Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid. It is widely believed that Gray received his nickname from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch.[86]

Jimbo ‘Bacardi Brigadier’ Simpson—North Belfast (Unknown–2002)[86] Simpson is believed to have been an alcoholic, hence his nickname. He was leader of the UDA in the volatile North Belfast area, an interface between Catholics and Protestants in the New Lodge and Tiger’s Bay neighbourhoods.[86]

Billy ‘The Mexican’ McFarland—North Antrim and Londonderry (Unknown–2013)[86] He Earned his nickname because of his moustache and swarthy appearance, and had overall command of the UDA’s North Antrim and Derry brigade at the time of the Good Friday Agreement. He supported the leadership against Johnny Adair and has been associated with the magazine ‘Warrior’, which makes the case for Ulster Independence

Andre ‘The Egyptian’ Shoukri[86]—North Belfast (2002–2005)[86] Initially a close ally of Johnny Adair, Shoukri and his brother Ihab became involved with the UDA in his native North Belfast. The son of an Egyptian father and a Northern Irish mother, he was expelled from the UDA in 2005 following allegations of criminality.

John ‘Grug’ Gregg—South East Antrim (c.1993[96]–2003) John ‘Grug’ Gregg was a man with a fearsome reputation within the loyalist movement, known as a “Hawk” in loyalist circles, and controlled the streets of south east Antrim. On 14 March 1984, he severely wounded Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in an assassination attempt for which he was jailed. When asked by the BBC in prison if he regretted anything about the shooting, his reply was “only that I didn’t succeed.” He was killed on Belfast’s Nelson Street, along with another UDA member (Rab Carson), while travelling in a taxi from the docks in 2003, and the murder was blamed on supporters of Johnny Adair, who had recently been expelled from the UDA in 2002.

Deaths as a result of activity

UDA South Belfast Brigade memorial plaque in Sandy Row

According to Malcolm Sutton’s Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland (part of the CAIN database), the UDA/UFF was responsible for at least 260 killings during the Troubles, between 1969 and 2001. There are a further 250 loyalist killings where it is not yet certain which group was responsible.[97]

Of those killed by the UDA/UFF:[11]

  • 209 (~80%) were civilians, 12 of whom were civilian political activists
  • 11 (~4%) were members or former members of republican paramilitary groups
  • 37 (~14%) were members or former members of loyalist paramilitary groups
  • 3 (~1%) were members of the British security forces

There were also 91 UDA members and four former members killed in the conflict.[98]

UVF ( Ulster Volunteer Force )

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is an Ulster loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland. It emerged in 1966 and is named after the original UVF of the early 20th century. Its first leader was Gusty Spence, a former British soldier. The group undertook an armed campaign of almost thirty years during the Troubles. It declared a ceasefire in 1994 and officially ended its campaign in 2007, although some of its members have continued to engage in violence. The group is classified as a terrorist organization by the United Kingdom,[1] Republic of Ireland and United States.[2]

Until recent years,[3] it was noted for secrecy and a policy of limited, selective membership.[4][5][6][7][8] The UVF’s declared goals were to combat Irish republicanism – particularly the Irish Republican Army – and to maintain Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom. It was responsible for at least 500 deaths, the vast majority (more than two-thirds)[9][10] of whom were Irish Catholic civilians. During the conflict, its deadliest attack in Northern Ireland was the 1971 McGurk’s Bar bombing, which killed fifteen civilians. The group also carried out attacks in the Republic of Ireland from 1969 onward. The biggest of these was the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which killed 33 civilians, making it the deadliest terrorist attack of the conflict. The no-warning car bombings had been carried out by units from the Belfast and Mid-Ulster brigades. The Mid-Ulster Brigade was also responsible for the 1975 Miami Showband killings, in which three members of the popular Irish cabaret band were shot dead at a bogus military checkpoint by gunmen in British Army uniforms. Two UVF men were accidentally blown up in this attack. The UVF’s last major attack was the 1994 Loughinisland massacre, in which its members shot dead six Catholic civilians in a rural pub.

Since the ceasefire, the UVF has been involved in rioting, organized crime, vigilantism and feuds with other loyalist groups.[11] Some members have also been orchestrating a series of racist attacks.[12]

Aim and strategy

A UVF publicity photo showing masked and armed UVF members

The UVF’s stated goal was to combat Irish republicanism – particularly the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) – and maintain Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom.[13] The vast majority of its victims were Irish Catholic civilians, who were often killed at random.[14] Whenever it claimed responsibility for its attacks, the UVF usually claimed that those targeted were IRA members or were giving help to the IRA.[15] Other times, attacks on Catholic civilians were claimed as “retaliation” for IRA actions, since the IRA drew most of its support from the Catholic community. Such retaliation was seen as both collective punishment and an attempt to weaken the IRA’s support; it was thought that terrorizing the Catholic community and inflicting such a death toll on it would force the IRA to end its campaign.[16] Many retaliatory attacks on Catholics were claimed using the covername “Protestant Action Force” (PAF), which first appeared in Autumn 1974.[17] They always signed their statements with the fictitious name “Captain William Johnston”.[18]

Like the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the UVF’s modus operandi involved assassinations, mass shootings, bombings and kidnappings. It used sub machine-guns, assault rifles, pistols, grenades (including homemade grenades), incendiary bombs, booby trap bombs and car bombs. Referring to its activity in the early and mid-1970s, journalist Ed Moloney described no-warning pub bombings as the UVF’s “forte”.[19] Members were trained in bomb-making and it developed home-made explosives.[20] In the late summer and autumn of 1973 the UVF detonated more bombs than the UDA and IRA combined,[21] and by the time of the group’s temporary ceasefire in late November it had been responsible for over 200 explosions that year.[22] However, from 1977 bombs largely disappeared from the UVF’s arsenal owing to a lack of explosives and bomb-makers, plus a conscious decision to abandon their use in favour of more contained methods.[23][24] The UVF did not return to regular bombings until the early 1990s when it obtained a quantity of the mining explosive Powergel.[25][26]

History

The 1960s

Since 1964, there had been a growing civil rights campaign in Northern Ireland. The civil rights movement sought to end discrimination against Catholics by the Protestant and Unionist-dominated government of Northern Ireland.[27] In March and April 1966, Irish republicans held parades throughout Ireland to mark the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. On 8 March, a group of ex-Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers planted a bomb that destroyed Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin. At the time, the IRA was weak and not engaged in armed action, but some unionists and loyalists warned that it was about to be revived and launch another campaign against Northern Ireland.[27] In April, loyalists led by Ian Paisley, a Protestant fundamentalist preacher, founded the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC). It set up a paramilitary-style wing called the Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV).[27] The ‘Paisleyites’ set out to stymie the civil rights movement and oust Terence O’Neill, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Although O’Neill was a unionist, they saw him as being too ‘soft’ on the civil rights movement and too friendly with the Republic of Ireland. There was much overlap in membership between the UCDC/UPV and the UVF.[28]

A UVF mural on the Shankill Road

An old UVF mural on Shankill Road, where the group was formed

A UVF flag in Glenarm, County Antrim

On 7 May, loyalists petrol bombed a Catholic-owned pub in the loyalist Shankill area of Belfast. Fire engulfed the house next door, badly burning the elderly Protestant widow who lived there. She died of her injuries on 27 June.[27] The group called itself the “Ulster Volunteer Force” (UVF), after the original UVF of the early 20th century. It was led by Gusty Spence, a former British soldier. Spence claimed that he was approached in 1965 by two men, one of whom was an Ulster Unionist Party MP, who told him that the UVF was to be re-established and that he was to have responsibility for the Shankill.[29] On 21 May, the group issued a statement:

From this day, we declare war against the Irish Republican Army and its splinter groups. Known IRA men will be executed mercilessly and without hesitation. Less extreme measures will be taken against anyone sheltering or helping them, but if they persist in giving them aid, then more extreme methods will be adopted… we solemnly warn the authorities to make no more speeches of appeasement. We are heavily armed Protestants dedicated to this cause.[30]

On 27 May, Spence sent four UVF members to kill IRA volunteer Leo Martin, who lived in Belfast. Unable to find their target, the men drove around the Falls district in search of a Catholic. They shot John Scullion, a Catholic civilian, as he walked home.[31] He died of his wounds on 11 June.[27] Spence later wrote “At the time, the attitude was that if you couldn’t get an IRA man you should shoot a Taig, he’s your last resort”.[31]

On 26 June, the group shot dead a Catholic civilian and wounded two others as they left a pub on Malvern Street, Belfast.[27] Two days later, the Government of Northern Ireland declared the UVF illegal.[27] The shootings led to Spence being arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum sentence of twenty years.[32] Spence appointed Samuel McClelland as UVF Chief of Staff in his stead.[33]

By 1969, the Catholic civil rights movement had escalted its protest campaign, and O’Neill had promised them some concessions. In March and April that year, UVF and UPV members bombed water and electricity installations in Northern Ireland, blaming them on the dormant IRA and elements of the civil rights movement. Some of them left much of Belfast without power and water.[34] The loyalists “intended to force a crisis which would so undermine confidence in O’Neill’s ability to maintain law and order that he would be obliged to resign”.[35] There were bombings on 30 March, 4 April, 20 April, 24 April and 26 April. All were widely blamed on the IRA, and British soldiers were sent to guard installations.[34] Unionist support for O’Neill waned, and on 28 April he resigned as Prime Minister.[34]

On 12 August 1969, the “Battle of the Bogside” began in Derry. This was a large, three-day riot between Irish nationalists and the police (RUC). In response to events in Derry, nationalists held protests throughout Northern Ireland, some of which became violent. In Belfast, loyalists responded by attacking nationalist districts. Eight people were shot dead and hundreds were injured. Scores of houses and businesses were burnt-out, most of them owned by Catholics. The British Army were deployed on the streets of Northern Ireland. The Irish Army also set up field hospitals near the border. Thousands of families, mostly Catholics, were forced to flee their homes and refugee camps were set up in the Republic of Ireland.[34]

On 12 October, a loyalist protest in the Shankill became violent. During the riot, UVF members shot dead RUC officer Victor Arbuckle. He was the first RUC officer to be killed during the Troubles.[36]

The UVF had launched its first attack in the Republic of Ireland on 5 August 1969, when it bombed the RTÉ Television Centre in Dublin.[37][38] There were further attacks in the Republic between October and December 1969. In October, UVF and UPV member Thomas McDowell was killed by the bomb he was planting at Ballyshannon power station. The UVF stated that the attempted attack was a protest against the Irish Army units “still massed on the border in County Donegal“.[39] In December the UVF detonated a car bomb near the Garda central detective bureau and telephone exchange headquarters in Dublin.[40]

The early to mid-1970s

A UVF mural on Shankill Road, Belfast

In January 1970, the UVF began bombing Catholic-owned businesses in Protestant areas of Belfast. It issued a statement vowing to “remove republican elements from loyalist areas” and stop them “reaping financial benefit therefrom”. During 1970, 42 Catholic-owned licensed premises in Protestant areas were bombed.[41] Catholic churches were also attacked. In February it began to target critics of militant loyalism – the homes of MPs Austin Currie, Sheelagh Murnaghan, Richard Ferguson and Anne Dickson were attacked with improvised bombs.[41] It also continued its attacks in the Republic of Ireland, bombing the Dublin-Belfast railway line, an electricity substation, a radio mast, and Irish nationalist monuments.[42]

In December 1969 the IRA had split into the Provisional IRA and Official IRA. In early 1971 they began a concerted campaign against the British Army and RUC. The first British soldier to die in the conflict was killed by the Provisional IRA in February 1971. That year, a string of tit-for-tat pub bombings began in Belfast.[43] This came to a climax on 4 December, when the UVF bombed McGurk’s Bar, a Catholic-owned pub in Belfast. Fifteen Catholic civilians were killed and seventeen wounded. It was the UVF’s deadliest attack in Northern Ireland, and the deadliest attack in Belfast during the Troubles.[44]

The following year, 1972, was the most violent of the Troubles. Along with the newly formed Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the UVF began carrying out gun attacks on random Catholic civilians and using car bombs to attack Catholic-owned pubs. It would continue these tactics for the rest of its campaign. On 23 October 1972, the UVF carried out an armed raid against King’s Park camp, a UDR/Territorial Army depot in Lurgan. They managed to procure a large cache of weapons and ammunition including self-loading rifles, Browning pistols, and Sterling submachine guns. Twenty tons of ammonium nitrate was also stolen from the Belfast docks.[45]

The UVF launched further attacks in the Republic of Ireland during December 1972 and January 1973, when it detonated three car bombs in Dublin and one in Belturbet, killing five civilians. It would attack the Republic again in May 1974, during the two-week Ulster Workers’ Council strike. This was a general strike in protest against the Sunningdale Agreement, which meant sharing political power with Irish nationalists and the Republic having more involvement in Northern Ireland. Along with the UDA, it helped to enforce the strike by blocking roads, intimidating workers, and shutting any businesses that opened.[46] On 17 May, two UVF units from the Belfast and Mid-Ulster brigades detonated four car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan. Thirty-three people were killed and almost 300 injured. It was the deadliest attack of the Troubles. There are various credible allegations that elements of the British security forces colluded with the UVF in the bombings. The Irish parliament‘s Joint Committee on Justice called the bombings an act of “international terrorism” involving the British security forces.[47] Both the UVF and the British Government have denied the claims.

The UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade was founded in 1972 in Lurgan by Billy Hanna, a sergeant in the UDR and a member of the Brigade Staff, who served as the brigade’s commander until his shooting death in July 1975. From that time until the early 1990s, the Mid-Ulster Brigade was led by Robin “the Jackal” Jackson, who then passed the leadership to Billy Wright. Hanna and Jackson have both been implicated by journalist Joe Tiernan, and RUC Special Patrol Group (SPG) officer John Weir as having led one of the units that bombed Dublin.[48] Jackson was allegedly the hitman who shot Hanna dead outside his home in Lurgan, and subsequently took over his command.[49]

The brigade formed part of the Glenanne gang, a loose alliance of loyalist assassins which the Pat Finucane Centre has linked to 87 killings in the 1970s. The gang comprised, in addition to the UVF, rogue elements of the UDR, RUC, SPG, and the regular Army, all acting allegedly under the direction of British Military Intelligence and/or RUC Special Branch.[50]

Mid to late-1970s

UVF mural in the Shankill Road, where the Brigade Staff is based

In 1974, hardliners staged a coup and took over the Brigade Staff.[51] This resulted in a lethal upsweep of sectarian killings and internecine feuding with both the UDA and within the UVF itself.[51] Some of the new Brigade Staff members bore nicknames such as “Big Dog” and “Smudger”.[52] Beginning in 1975, recruitment to the UVF, which until then had been solely by invitation, was now left to the discretion of local units.[53]

The UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade carried out further attacks during this same period. These included the Miami Showband killings of 31 July 1975 – when three members of the popular showband from the Republic of Ireland were killed having been stopped at a fake British Army checkpoint outside of Newry in County Down. Two members of the group survived the attack and later testified against those responsible. Two UVF members, Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville, were accidentally killed by their own bomb while carrying out this attack. Two of those later convicted (James McDowell and Thomas Crozier) were also serving members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), a part-time, locally recruited regiment of the British Army.

From late 1975 to mid-1977, a unit of the UVF dubbed the Shankill Butchers (a group of UVF men based on Belfast’s Shankill Road) carried out a series of sectarian murders of Catholic civilians. Six of the victims were abducted at random, then beaten and tortured before having their throats slashed. This gang was led by Lenny Murphy. He was shot dead by the IRA in November 1982, four months after his release from the Maze Prison.

The group had been proscribed in July 1966, but this ban was lifted on 4 April 1974 by Merlyn Rees, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in an effort to bring the UVF into the democratic process.[54] A political wing was formed in June 1974, the Volunteer Political Party led by UVF Chief of Staff Ken Gibson, which contested West Belfast in the October 1974 General Election, polling 2,690 votes (6%). The UVF spurned the government efforts however and continued killing. Colin Wallace, part of the intelligence apparatus of the British Army, asserted in an internal memo in 1975 that MI6 and RUC Special Branch formed a pseudo-gang within the UVF, designed to engage in violence and to subvert moves of the UVF towards the political process. Captain Robert Nairac of 14 Intelligence Company was alleged to have been involved in many acts of UVF violence.[55] The UVF was banned again on 3 October 1975 and two days later twenty-six suspected UVF members were arrested in a series of raids. The men were tried and in March 1977 were sentenced to an average of twenty-five years each.[56][57]

In October 1975, after staging a counter-coup, the Brigade Staff acquired a new leadership of moderates with Tommy West serving as the Chief of Staff.[58] These men had overthrown the “hawkish” officers, who had called for a “big push”, which meant an increase in violent attacks, earlier in the same month.[59] In fact, the UVF was behind the deaths of seven civilians in a series of attacks on 2 October.[60] The hawks had been ousted by those in the UVF who were unhappy with their political and military strategy. The new Brigade Staff’s aim was to carry out attacks against known republicans rather than Catholic civilians.[59] This had been thoroughly endorsed by Gusty Spence who issued a statement asking all UVF volunteers to support the new regime.[61] The UVF’s activities in the last years of the decade were increasingly being curtailed by the number of UVF members who were sent to prison.[59] Indeed, the number of killings in Northern Ireland had decreased from 300 per year during the period between 1973 and 1976 to just under 100 in the years 1977–1981.[62] In 1976, Tommy West was replaced with “Mr. F” who is alleged to be John “Bunter” Graham and remains the incumbent Chief of Staff to date.[63][64] West died in 1980.

On 17 February 1979, the UVF carried out its only major attack in Scotland, when its members bombed two pubs in Glasgow frequented by Catholics. Both pubs were wrecked and a number of people were wounded. It claimed the pubs were used for republican fundraising. In June, nine UVF members were convicted of the attacks.[65]

The early to mid-1980s

In the 1980s, the UVF was greatly reduced by a series of police informers. The damage from security service informers started in 1983 with “supergrass” Joseph Bennett’s information which led to the arrest of fourteen senior figures. In 1984, they attempted to kill the northern editor of the Sunday World, Jim Campbell after he had exposed the paramilitary activities of Mid-Ulster brigadier Robin Jackson. By the mid-1980s, a Loyalist paramilitary-style organisation called Ulster Resistance was formed on 10 November 1986. The initial aim of Ulster Resistance was to bring an end to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Loyalists were successful in importing arms into Northern Ireland. The weapons were Palestine Liberation Organisation arms captured by the Israelis, sold to Armscor, the South African state-owned company which, in defiance of the 1977 United Nations arms embargo, set about making South Africa self-sufficient in military hardware.[citation needed] The arms were divided between the UVF, the UDA (the largest loyalist group) and Ulster Resistance.[66]

The UVF received large numbers of Sa vz. 58 assault rifles in the 1980s

The arms are thought to have consisted of:

  • 200 Czechoslovak Sa vz. 58 assault rifles,
  • 90 Browning pistols,
  • 500 RGD-5 fragmentation grenades,
  • 30,000 rounds of ammunition and
  • 12 RPG-7 rocket launchers and 150 warheads.

The UVF used this new infusion of arms to escalate their campaign of sectarian assassinations. This era also saw a more widespread targeting on the UVF’s part of IRA and Sinn Féin members, beginning with the killing of senior IRA member Larry Marley[67] and a failed attempt on the life of a leading republican which left three Catholic civilians dead.[68]

The late 1980s and early 1990s

The UVF also attacked republican paramilitaries and their political activists. These attacks were stepped up in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The largest death toll was on 3 March 1991 when the UVF killed IRA members John Quinn, Dwayne O’Donnell and Malcolm Nugent, and civilian Thomas Armstrong in the car park next to Boyle’s Bar, Cappagh.[69] Republicans had responded to the attacks by assassinating UVF leaders, including John Bingham, William “Frenchie” Marchant, Trevor King[70] and, allegedly, Leslie Dallas.[71] The UVF also killed republicans James Burns, Liam Ryan and Larry Marley.[72] According to Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN), the UVF killed 17 active and four former republican paramilitaries. CAIN also states that Republicans killed 13 UVF members.[73]

According to journalist and author Ed Moloney the UVF campaign in Mid Ulster in this period “indisputably shattered Republican morale”, and put the leadership of the republican movement under intense pressure to “do something”.[74]

1994 ceasefire

A UVF mural referencing the ceasefire

In 1990 the UVF joined the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) and indicated its acceptance of moves towards peace. However, the year leading up to the loyalist ceasefire, which took place shortly after the Provisional IRA ceasefire, saw some of the worst sectarian killings carried out by loyalists during the Troubles. On 18 June 1994, UVF members machine-gunned a pub in Loughinisland, County Down on the basis that its customers were watching the Republic of Ireland national football team playing in the World Cup on television and were therefore assumed to be Catholics. The gunmen shot dead six people and injured five.

The UVF agreed to a ceasefire in October 1994.

Post-ceasefire activities

More militant members of the UVF, led by Billy Wright who disagreed with the ceasefire, broke away to form the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). This development came soon after the UVF’s Brigade Staff in Belfast had stood down Wright and the Portadown unit of the Mid-Ulster Brigade, on 2 August 1996, for the killing of a Catholic taxi driver near Lurgan during Drumcree disturbances.[75]

A UVF mural in Carrickfergus

There followed years of violence between the two organisations. In January 2000 UVF Mid-Ulster brigadier Richard Jameson was shot dead by a LVF gunman which led to an escalation of the UVF/LVF feud. The UVF was also clashing with the UDA in the summer of 2000. The feud with the UDA ended in December following seven deaths. Veteran anti-UVF campaigner Raymond McCord, whose son, Raymond Jr., a Protestant, was beaten to death by UVF men in 1997, estimates the UVF has killed more than thirty people since its 1994 ceasefire, most of them Protestants.[citation needed] The feud between the UVF and the LVF erupted again in the summer of 2005. The UVF killed four men in Belfast and trouble ended only when the LVF announced that it was disbanding in October of that year.[76]

On 14 September 2005, following serious loyalist rioting during which dozens of shots were fired at riot police, the Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain announced that the British government no longer recognised the UVF ceasefire.[77]

On 12 February 2006, The Observer reported that the UVF was to disband by the end of 2006. The newspaper also reported that the group refused to decommission its weapons.[78]

On 2 September 2006, BBC News reported the UVF may be intending to re-enter dialogue with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, with a view to decommissioning of their weapons. This move comes as the organisation holds high level discussions about their future.[79]

On 3 May 2007, following recent negotiations between the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and with Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, the UVF made a statement that they would transform to a “non-military, civilianised” organisation.[80] This was to take effect from midnight. They also stated that they would retain their weaponry but put them beyond reach of normal volunteers. Their weapons stock-piles are to be retained under the watch of the UVF leadership.[81][82][83]

In January 2008, the UVF was accused of involvement in vigilante action against alleged criminals in Belfast.[84]

In 2008, a loyalist splinter group calling itself the “Real UVF” emerged briefly to make threats against Sinn Féin in Co. Fermanagh.[85]

In the twentieth IMC report, the group was said to be continuing to put its weapons “beyond reach”, (in the group’s own words) to downsize, and reduce the criminality of the group. The report added that individuals, some current and some former members, in the group have, without the orders from above, continued to “localised recruitment”, and although some continued to try and acquire weapons, including a senior member, most forms of crime had fallen, including shootings and assaults. The group concluded a general acceptance of the need to decommission, though there was no conclusive proof of moves towards this end.[86]

In June 2009 the UVF formally decommissioned their weapons in front of independent witnesses as a formal statement of decommissioning was read by Dawn Purvis and Billy Hutchinson.[87] The IICD confirmed that “substantial quantities of firearms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices” had been decommissioned and that for the UVF and RHC, decommissioning had been completed.[88] On 30 May 2010, however, the UVF was believed to have carried out the shotgun killing of expelled RHC member Bobby Moffett on the Shankill Road in broad daylight. The shooting raised questions over the future of the PUP.

On 25–26 October 2010, the UVF was involved in rioting and disturbances in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey with UVF gunmen seen on the streets at the time.[89][90]

On 28 May 2010, the UVF was severely criticised over the murder of Moffett. The Independent Monitoring Commission was highly critical of the leadership for having condoned and even sanctioned the attack, in contrast to praise bestowed on the Brigade Staff for a moderating influence during the marching season. The Progressive Unionist Party‘s condemnation, and Dawn Purvis and other leaders’ resignations as a response to the Moffett shooting, were also noted. Eleven months later, a 40-year-old man was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of the UVF’s alleged second-in-command Harry Stockman, described by the media as a “senior Loyalist figure”. Fifty-year-old Stockman was stabbed more than 15 times in a supermarket in the Greater Shankill area; the attack was believed to have been linked to the Moffett killing. However, public opinion suggests that the stabbing was a personal vendetta and any connection being made to the Moffett case was simply a fictitious tale of revenge.[91]

On the night of 20 June 2011, riots involving 500 people erupted in the Short Strand area of East Belfast. They were blamed by the PSNI on members of the UVF, who also said UVF guns had been used to try to kill police officers.[92] The UVF leader in East Belfast, who is popularly known as the “Beast of the East” and “Ugly Doris” also known as by real name Stephen Matthews, ordered the attack on Catholic homes and a church in the Catholic enclave of the Short Strand. This was in retaliation for attacks on Loyalist homes the previous weekend and after a young girl was hit in the face with a brick by Republicans.[92][93] A dissident Republican was arrested for “the attempted murder of police officers in east Belfast” after shots were fired upon the police.[94]

In July 2011 a UVF flag flying in Limavady was deemed legal by the PSNI after the police had received complaints about the flag from nationalist politicians.[95]

During the Belfast City Hall flag protests of 2012 – 2013, senior UVF members were confirmed to have actively been involved in orchestrating violence and rioting against the PSNI and the Alliance Party throughout Northern Ireland during the weeks of disorder.[96] Much of the UVF’s orchestration was carried out by its senior members in East Belfast, where many attacks on the PSNI and on residents of the Short Strand enclave took place.[97] There were also reports that UVF members fired shots at police lines during a protest.[98] The high levels of orchestration by the leadership of the East Belfast UVF, and the alleged ignored orders from the main leaders of the UVF to stop the violence has led to fears that the East Belfast UVF has now become a separate loyalist paramilitary grouping which doesn’t abide by the UVF ceasefire or the Northern Ireland Peace Process.[99][100]

In October 2013, the policing board announced that the UVF was still heavily involved in gangsterism despite its ceasefire. Assistant chief constable Drew Harris in a statement said “The UVF are subject to an organized crime investigation as an organized crime group. The UVF very clearly have involvement in drug dealing, all forms of gangsterism, serious assaults, intimidation of the community.” [11]

In November 2013, after a series of shootings and acts of intimidation by the UVF. Police Federation Chairman, Terry Spence declared that the UVF ceasefire was no longer active. Spence told Radio Ulster that the UVF had been “engaged in murder, attempted murder of civilians, attempted murder of police officers. They have been engaged in orchestrating violence on our streets, and it’s very clear to me that they are engaged in an array of mafia-style activities.”They are holding local communities to ransom. On the basis of that, we as a federation have called for the respecification of the UVF [stating that its ceasefire is over].”[101]

Leadership

Brigade Staff

Masked UVF Brigade Staff members at a press conference in October 1974. They are wearing part of the UVF uniform which earned them their nickname “Blacknecks”

The UVF’s leadership is based in Belfast and known as the Brigade Staff. It comprises high-ranking officers under a Chief of Staff or Brigadier-General. With a few exceptions, such as Mid-Ulster brigadier Billy Hanna (a native of Lurgan), the Brigade Staff members have been from the Shankill Road or the neighbouring Woodvale area to the west.[102] The Brigade Staff’s former headquarters were situated in rooms above “The Eagle” chip shop located on the Shankill Road at its junction with Spier’s Place. The chip shop has since been closed down.

In 1972, the UVF’s imprisoned leader Gusty Spence was at liberty for four months following a staged kidnapping by UVF volunteers. During this time he restructured the organisation into brigades, battalions, companies, platoons and sections.[45] These were all subordinate to the Brigade Staff. The incumbent Chief of Staff, is alleged to be John “Bunter” Graham, referred to by Martin Dillon as “Mr. F”.[63][64][103] Graham has held the position since he assumed office in 1976.[63]

The UVF’s nickname is “Blacknecks”, derived from their uniform of black polo neck jumper, black trousers, black leather jacket, black forage cap, along with the UVF badge and belt.[104][105] This uniform, based on those of the original UVF, was introduced in the early 1970s.[106]

Chiefs of Staff

  • Gusty Spence (1966–1966). Whilst remaining de jure UVF leader after he was jailed for murder, he no longer acted as the Chief of Staff
  • Sam “Bo” McClelland (1966–1973)[33] Described as a “tough disciplinarian”, he was personally appointed by Spence to succeed him as Chief of Staff, due to his having served in the Korean War with Spence’s former regiment, the Royal Ulster Rifles. He was interned in late 1973, although by that stage the de facto Chief of Staff was his successor, Jim Hanna.[33][107]
  • Jim Hanna (1973 – April 1974)[107] Hanna was allegedly shot dead by the UVF as a suspected informer.[107]
  • Ken Gibson (1974)[108] Gibson was the Chief of Staff during the Ulster Workers’ Council Strike in May 1974.[108]
  • Unnamed Chief of Staff (1974 – October 1975). Leader of the Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV), the youth wing of the UVF. Assumed command after a coup by hardliners in 1974. He, along with the other hawkish Brigade Staff members were overthrown by Tommy West and a new Brigade Staff of “moderates” in a counter-coup supported by Gusty Spence. He left Northern Ireland after his removal from power.[61][109]
  • Tommy West (October 1975 – 1976)[58] A former British Army soldier, West was already the Chief of Staff at the time UVF volunteer Noel “Nogi” Shaw was killed by Lenny Murphy in November 1975 as part of an internal feud.[58]
  • John “Bunter” Graham, also referred to as “Mr. F” (1976–present)[63][64][103]

Strength, finance and support

The strength of the UVF is uncertain. The first Independent Monitoring Commission report in April 2004 described the UVF/RHC as “relatively small” with “a few hundred” active members “based mainly in the Belfast and immediately adjacent areas”.[110] Historically, the number of active UVF members in July 1971 was stated by one source to be no more than 20.[111] Later, in September 1972, Gusty Spence said in an interview that the organisation had a strength of 1,500.[112] A British Army report released in 2006 estimated a peak membership of 1,000.[113] Information regarding the role of women in the UVF is limited. One study focusing in part on female members of the UVF and Red Hand Commando noted that it “seem[ed] to have been reasonably unusual” for women to be officially asked to join the UVF.[114] Another estimates that over a 30-year period women accounted for just 2% of UVF membership at most.[115]

Prior to and after the onset of the Troubles the UVF carried out armed robberies.[116][117] This activity has been described as its preferred source of funds in the early 1970s,[118] and it continued into the 2000s with the UVF in Co Londonderry being active.[110] Members were disciplined after they carried out an unsanctioned theft of £8 million of paintings from an estate in Co Wicklow in April 1974.[119] Like the IRA, the UVF also operated black taxi services,[120][121][122] a scheme believed to have generated £100,000 annually for the organisation.[116] The UVF has also been involved in the extortion of legitimate businesses, although to a lesser extent than the UDA,[123] and was described in the fifth IMC report as being involved in organised crime.[124] In 2002 the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee estimated the UVF’s annual running costs at £1–2 million per year, against an annual fundraising capability of £1.5 million.[125]

In contrast to the IRA, overseas support for loyalist paramilitaries including the UVF has been limited.[126] Its main benefactors have been in central Scotland,[127] Liverpool,[128] Preston[128] and the Toronto area of Canada.[129] Supporters in Scotland have helped supply explosives and guns.[130][131] Although Scottish support for loyalist paramilitaries has been hindered by the strong disapproval of the mainstream Orange Order in that country,[132][133] it is estimated that the UVF nevertheless received hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations to its Loyalist Prisoners Welfare Association.[134]

Drug dealing

The UVF have been implicated in drug dealing in areas from where they draw their support. Recently it has emerged from the Police Ombudsman that senior North Belfast UVF member and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch informant Mark Haddock has been involved in drug dealing. According to the Belfast Telegraph, “…70 separate police intelligence reports implicating the north Belfast UVF man in dealing cannabis, Ecstasy, amphetamines and cocaine.”[135]

According to Alan McQuillan, the assistant director of the Assets Recovery Agency in 2005, “In the loyalist community, drug dealing is run by the paramilitaries and it is generally run for personal gain by a large number of people.” When the Assets Recovery Agency won a High Court order to seize luxury homes belonging to ex-policeman Colin Robert Armstrong and his partner Geraldine Mallon in 2005, Alan McQuillan said “We have further alleged Armstrong has had links with the UVF and then the LVF following the split between those organisations.” It was alleged that Colin Armstrong had links to both drugs and loyalist terrorists.[136]

Billy Wright, the commander of the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade, is believed to have started dealing drugs in 1991 [137] as a lucrative sideline to paramilitary murder. Wright is believed to have dealt mainly in Ecstasy tablets in the early 90s.[138] It was around this time that Sunday World journalists Martin O’Hagan and Jim Campbell coined the term “rat pack” for the UVF’s murderous mid-Ulster unit and, unable to identify Wright by name for legal reasons, they christened him “King Rat.” An article published by the newspaper fingered Wright as a drug lord and sectarian murderer. Wright was apparently enraged by the nickname and made numerous threats to O’Hagan and Campbell. The Sunday World’s offices were also firebombed. Mark Davenport from the BBC has stated that he spoke to a drug dealer who told him that he paid Billy Wright protection money.[139] Loyalists in Portadown such as Bobby Jameson have stated that the LVF (the Mid-Ulster Brigade that broke away from the main UVF – and led by Billy Wright) was not a ‘loyalist organisation but a drugs organisation causing misery in Portadown.’[140]

The UVF’s satellite organisation, the Red Hand Commando, was described by the IMC in 2004 as “heavily involved” in drug dealing.[110]

Affiliated groups

  • The Red Hand Commando (RHC) is an organisation that was established in 1972 and is closely linked with the UVF.
  • The Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV) is the youth section of the UVF. It was initially a youth group akin to the Scouts, but became the youth wing of the UVF during the Home Rule crisis.

Deaths as a result of activity

The UVF has killed more people than any other loyalist paramilitary group. According to the University of Ulster‘s Sutton database, the UVF and RHC was responsible for at least 485 killings during the Troubles, between 1969 and 2001. This includes killings claimed by the “Protestant Action Force” and “Protestant Action Group”. There are a further 250 loyalist killings where it is not yet certain which group was responsible.[9]

Of those killed by the UVF and RHC:[143]

  • 414 (~85%) were civilians, 11 of whom were civilian political activists
  • 21 (~4%) were members or former members of republican paramilitary groups
  • 44 (~9%) were members or former members of loyalist paramilitary groups
  • 6 (~1%) were members of the British security forces

There were also 66 UVF/RHC members and four former members killed in the conflict.[144]

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