Ulster Volunteer Force

Ulster Volunteer Force

Infobox War Faction
name=Ulster Volunteer Force
war= The Troubles

caption= The UVF emblem.
active=1966-Present (ended armed campaign in 2006)
leaders= Gusty Spence
area=Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland
allies=RHC, Red Hand Defenders
opponents=PIRA, Irish Nationalists, INLA, IPLO
The Ulster Volunteer Force (more commonly referred to as the UVF) is a Loyalist group in Northern Ireland. The current incarnation was formed in May 1966 as a paramilitary group and named after the Ulster Volunteers of 1912, although there is no direct connection between the two.

The group is a proscribed organisation in the Republic of Ireland, and a designated terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom and the United States.


The group was concentrated around east Antrim, County Armagh, the Shankill Road and east Belfast. In its announcement on 21 May 1966, the UVF declared war on the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and made note of the fact it consisted of "heavily armed Protestants dedicated to this cause". [See Nelson, Sarah. "Ulster's Uncertain Defenders: Protestant Political Paramilitary and Community Groups and the Northern Ireland Conflict" Belfast: Appletree Press, 1984 Page.61.] They followed this announcement with the sectarian killing of a Roman Catholic barman in June 1966. This attack led to the first leader of the group, Augustus 'Gusty' Spence, being arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum sentence of twenty years. [cite book | last = Taylor | first = Peter | authorlink = Peter Taylor (Journalist) | title = Loyalists | publisher = Bloomsbury Publishing | year = 1999 | pages = p. 44 | doi = | isbn = 0-7475-4519-7] The declaration of war was made despite the fact that the IRA had exhausted itself during their failed Border Campaign of attacks on British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) members in Northern Ireland that ended in 1962.

The UVF was also responsible for a series of attacks on utilities installations in Northern Ireland during 1969. It was hoped that this campaign would be blamed on the IRA forcing moderate unionists to increase their opposition to the tentative reforms of Terence O'Neill's government. As civil disorder, rioting and violence known locally as "the Troubles" intensified, the UVF began a campaign of sectarian murder against Catholic civilians. The UVF, in its announcements to the media, claimed its violence was a reaction to the violence of the newly formed Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). This circle of attack by the IRA against the institutions of Northern Ireland, RUC, and British Army would be followed by counter-attack on the people the UVF saw as "hosting" the IRA: Roman Catholic civilians. Some of the UVF's attacks were carried out in cooperation with the Ulster Protestant Volunteers, another loyalist paramilitary organisation. Membership of these groups overlapped in some cases.

The 1970s

As the violence in Northern Ireland began to escalate in the early 1970s the UVF's attacks became more random and lethal. One example of this is the McGurk's Bar bombing in the New Lodge area of Belfast on 4 December 1971, which killed fifteen Catholic civilians. The attack was initially blamed on republican paramilitaries by the authorities and media but the UVF later admitted responsibility. [See Sutton database [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/chron/1971.html here] .] [Lost Lives 2007 edition, p.123, ISBN 978-1-84018-504-1] In 1976-77, a subset of the UVF dubbed the "Shankill Butchers" (a group of UVF men based on Belfast's Shankill Road) carried out a grisly series of sectarian murders of Catholic civilians. Six of the victims were abducted at random, then beaten and tortured before having their throats slashed. Another UVF group was responsible, allegedly with help from former and serving members of the Ulster Defence Regiment and MI5, for the bombs in Dublin and Monaghan of 17 May 1974 when thirty-three people were killed. The UVF was also to blame for the deaths of twelve civilians in an attack on 2 October 1974. The organisation carried out further attacks throughout the 1970s. These included the "Miami Showband killings" of 31 July 1975 — when three members of a showband from the Republic of Ireland were killed having been stopped at a fake British Army checkpoint on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Two members of the group survived the attack and later testified against those responsible. Two UVF members were accidentally killed by their own bomb while carrying out this attack. Two of those later convicted (James McDowell and Thomas Crozier) were also members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), a part-time, locally recruited regiment of the British Army.

The group had been proscribed in July 1966, but this ban was lifted in April 1974 in an effort to bring the UVF into the democratic process. A political wing was formed in June 1974, the Volunteer Political Party 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. [ [http://www.indymedia.ie/article/80134 Death Squad Dossier, Irish Mail on Sunday by Michael Browne, 10 December 2006] , also partly quoted in Barron Report (2003) p, 172 see also, [http://www.indymedia.ie/article/80012 Irish Daily Mail, 30 November 2006] for further information] 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. [cite book | last = Boyce | first = George | authorlink = | title = Defenders of the Union: British and Irish Unionism, 1800-1999 | publisher = Routledge | year = 2001 | pages = p. 269 | doi = | isbn = 978-0415174213] [cite web | title = What is the UVF? | author = | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/6619417.stm | publisher = BBC | date = 3 May 2007 | accessdate = 2008-02-11]

Campaign in the 1980s and 1990s

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. By the mid 1980s, a Loyalist paramilitary-style organisation called Ulster Resistance was formed on 10 November 1986 by Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Peter Robinson of the DUP, and Ivan Foster. 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 hardwareFact|date=April 2008. The arms were divided between the UVF, the UDA (the largest loyalist group) and Ulster Resistance.cite book | last = Taylor | first = Peter | authorlink = Peter Taylor (Journalist) | title = Loyalists | publisher = Bloomsbury Publishing | year = 1999 | pages = pp. 189-195 | doi = | isbn = 0-7475-4519-7] The arms are thought to have consisted of:

*200 Czech Sa vz. 58 assault rifles,
*90 Browning pistols,
*500 RGD-5 offensive 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. Browning pistol and RGD5 grenades were used in UDA member Michael Stone's attack on the funeral of IRA members killed in Gibraltar (along with a Ruger .357 pistol taken from the RUC) — see Milltown Cemetery attack. While this era saw a more widespread targeting on the UVF's part of IRA and Sinn Féin members, most of their victims continued to be Catholic civilians uninvolved in paramilitary activity.

Republican assassination campaign

"(see article on IRA and loyalist paramilitaries)"

From the late 1980s onwards, the UVF also began attacking republican paramilitaries, political activists and their families. On 3 March 1991 they 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. [ [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/chron/ NI Conflict Archive on the Internet] ] According to nationalist sources, Billy Wright the leader of the UVF's Mid-Ulster Brigade was involved in the killings. [ [http://republican-news.org/archive/2001/November29/30ohag.html Collusion link to journalist's killing, An Phoblacht] ] Republicans responded by assassinating Loyalist leaders, including John Bingham, Trevor King [ [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/alpha/K.html CAIN] ] , Leslie Dallas and Robert Seymore of the UVF. [Ed Moloney, Secret History of the IRA, p.321, Brendan O'Brien, The Long War, p314] According to the Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN), the IRA killed thirty-five loyalists, of whom eleven were UVF members, in this way [ [http://www.cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/book/index.html#append CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths - extracts from Sutton's book ] ] The cycle of killings between the rival paramilitary groups was brought to an end following the ceasefires of 1994.

1994 ceasefire

In 1990 the UVF joined the Combined Loyalist Military Command 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 16 June 1994, UVF members machine-gunned a pub in Loughlinisland, 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. The IRA for their part refute this claim, saying that it was in fact their own assassination campaign against the UVF and Ulster Defence Association, which led to both organizations calling their own respective ceasefires.

Recent developments

More militant members of the UVF, led by Billy Wright who disagreed with the ceasefire, broke away in 1996 to form the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). The UVF has been fighting with the LVF since then and in mid 2000 they also clashed with the UDA. The feud with the UDA ended in December following seven deaths. Veteran anti-UVF campaigner, Protestant Raymond McCord (whose son 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. The feud between the UVF and the LVF erupted again in the summer of 2005. The UVF killed four men in Belfast and the feud ended in October 2005 when the LVF announced that it was disbanding. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4393664.stm BBC News] ]

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. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4243652.stm BBC News] ]

UVF renounced "violence" and declared it was putting its arms "beyond reach" on 3 May 2007, though without as yet going as far as formally disarming itself, in the latest sign of progress towards peace ahead of the revival of self-rule in Northern Ireland, which restarted on 8 May 2007. [ [http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,21669906-5006506,00.html The Daily Telegraph] ]

Drug dealing activity

The UVF state they are against drug dealing, and will 'deal justice' to drug dealers. The UVF, like the IRA, has put a series of anti-drugs posters up on the estates they run to warn dealers that they are not welcome. [ [http://www.ulsternation.org.uk/drugs.htm Drugs ] ]

The UVF have been implicated in drug dealing in areas where they draw their support from. 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." [ [http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/article2187547.ece Haddock's drug den and the link to a gun tragedy - Local & National - News - Belfast Telegraph ] ]

trength and support

The strength of the UVF is uncertain. The first Independent Monitoring Commission report in April 2004 estimated the UVF/RHC had "a few hundred" active members "based mainly in the Belfast and immediately adjacent areas" [ [http://www.independentmonitoringcommission.org/publications.cfm?id=15 IMC] .] The UVF weaponry is limited to small arms, with its sporadic bombing efforts being made using stolen quarrying explosives.

Affiliated organisations

*The Red Hand Commandos (RHC) is an organisation that was established in 1972, but it is so closely linked with the UVF that it is generally regarded as simply a cover name.Fact|date=May 2007

*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.

*The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is the political wing of the UVF. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4244082.stm BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | What is the UVF? ] ] They have one member in the Northern Ireland Assembly, their party leader Dawn Purvis.

* The Protestant Action Force and Protestant Action Group are two cover names used by the UVF in the late 1970s and 1980s in a number of operations. [ [http://www.triskelle.eu/history/ulstervolunteerforce.php?+index= Triskelle - Irish history: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) ] ]

Deaths as a result of activity

The UVF has killed more people than any other loyalist paramilitary organisation. According to the University of Ulster's [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/crosstabs.html Sutton database] , the UVF was responsible for 426 killings during the Troubles, between 1969 and 2001::350 of its victims were civilians,:8 were civilian political activists, mainly members of Sinn Féin:41 were loyalist paramilitaries (including 29 members of the UVF itself),:6 were British Army, Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) or Prison Officers and:12 were republican paramilitaries.

Ceasefire and decommissioning of weaponry

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. [ [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,1708038,00.html The Observer] ]

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. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/5306670.stm BBC News] ]

On 3 May 2007, following recent negotiations between the 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. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/6618365.stm UVF Statement] ] 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. [ [http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0503/uvf.html RTE News - Statement Imminent] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/6618177.stm BBC News - Statement Imminent] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/6618371.stm BBC News - Statement Released] ]

In January 2008, the UVF was accused of involvement in viglante action against alleged criminals in Belfast. [Henry McDonald [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2239941,00.html Law and order Belfast-style as two men are forced on a 'walk of shame'] , "The Observer", 13 January 2008, accessed 13 January 2008]


ee also

*Billy Wright
*Larne Gun Running
*Young Citizens Volunteers
*Red Hand Commandos
*Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) - Organisation overseeing Decommissioning,
*Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) - Organisation monitoring activity by paramilitary groups.


* Steve Bruce, The Red Hand, 1992, ISBN 0-19-215961-5
* Jim Cusack & Henry McDonald, UVF, 2000, ISBN 1-85371-687-1
* Martin Dillon, The Dirty War
* Brendan O'Brien, The Long War - the IRA and Sinn Féin
* Peter Taylor, Loyalists
* Tony Geraghty, The Irish War

External links

* [http://www.belfastsomme.com/uvf.htm History of the 1912 UVF]
* [http://www.belfastsomme.com/ycv.htm History of the YCV]
* [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/ CAIN - University of Ulster Conflict Archive]
* [http://www.scottishloyalists.co.uk/paramilitaries/uvf.htm Ulster Volunteer Force]
* [http://www.irishnews.com]

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