Ulster Clubs

Ulster Clubs

Ulster Clubs were a series of unionist organisations founded in Northern Ireland in the Autumn of 1985.

The Ulster Clubs were initially formed by Alan Wright, whose father was murdered by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1979, as a support group for the Orange Order to prevent the re-routing of their parades away from Nationalist areas. They sought to expand their role and become an umbrella organisation for the various strands of Unionism after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement later that same year. Initially the Ulster Clubs were adopted enthusiastically a means of facilitating co-ordination between the Unionist parties and their different viewpoints, attracting up to 20,000 members in the first year. However the Clubs, which claimed to stick to constitutional means, soon came to be linked to loyalists including John McMichael, and many mainstream Unionists broke away, alarmed at this growing influence. In November 1986, Alan Wright spoke at the Ulster Hall rally which launched Ulster Resistance.

The Ulster Clubs also became influenced by the ideas of Ulster nationalism as an alternative to Unionism, given that many saw the AIA as a 'sell out' by the British government to which they claimed loyalty. Hugh Ross was a member and developed his Ulster Independence Movement from within the Ulster Clubs, whilst the Ulster Movement for Self-Determination also emerged from within the Clubs.

The Treasurer of the Ulster Clubs, Colin Abernethy was murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) while travelling to work on the 9th September 1989.

The Ulster Clubs carried on into the early 1990s, although by now their importance had diminished severely as the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party had taken joint lead of the anti-AIA campaign and the Clubs had largely been abandoned by mainstream Unionism, with many attracted instead to the 'Third Force' ideas of Ian Paisley. The movement is no longer in existence.


*H. McDonald & J. Cusack, "UDA – Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror", Dublin, Penguin Ireland, 2004

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