UVF and UDA Actions

The Ulster Defense Association (UDA)


Formed in September 1971, the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) is Northern Ireland’s most prominent Unionist paramilitary organization.1The term Unionist is used by the Protestant majority (60% of the Northern Ireland population) to describe their historical and political attachment to the United Kingdom (UK). Militant Unionists, those willing to use force to maintain Northern Ireland’s ties to the UK, carry the additional designation of Loyalist. The UDA is considered the umbrella Loyalist organization. At its peak, the UDA claimed over 40,000 members. Still considered to be the largest loyalist group, membership has dropped to less than 5,000 people with only a few hundred thought to be involved in paramilitary activities.2 Gary McMichaels and David Adams, members of the Ulster Democratic Party, represented the UDA in the 1997 peace talks. This information was provided by Conflict Historian Anthony Novosel. In 2004, the UDA agreed to reenter the peace process and renounce paramilitary activities.3


Originally designed as a command and training structure, the UDA united numerous Loyalist factions and used a three-prong approach to pursue its interests in Northern Ireland. First, at the grassroots level, the UDA directly involved itself in a variety of strikes, protests, and marches. Some of their work included the 1972 march against direct rule, the creation of neighborhood “no-go” zones designed to separate Protestant and Catholic urban areas, and the 1974 strike, which successfully disrupted a local power-sharing agreement.5Second, using the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), the more violent wing of the organization, the association carried out a variety of terrorist actions such as bombings and shootings.6 Lastly, after initially highlighting the group’s working class ties by prohibiting members of parliament or the clergy from joining the group, the UDA founded numerous political organizations. The latest was the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), founded in 2002 to enhance their political effectiveness.7


The UDA’s most notable involvement in a massive display of public dissent was in 1974 with the Ulster Workers’ Council Strike.9This was a general strike whose sole purpose was to attack the Sunningdale Agreement, which was designed to share power between Protestant and Catholic factions in Northern Ireland. The UDA led the protest by convincing workers to strike at work, construct roadblocks, hijack vehicles, and send platoons of men to factories in order to bring local industry to a halt. These actions resulted in the collapse of the Northern Irish Executive Branch and the resignation of Chief Executive Brian Faulkner.10


Since its conception in 1973, the UFF wing of the organization has carried out a multitude of attacks against Nationalists, whom regarded themselves as being of Irish nationality instead of British, and desired integration into the Republic of Ireland. These killings reached their culmination in the early 1990's when the UDA secured a large quantity of weapons from South Africa and began more brash assaults on Catholics, involving numerous mass killings. The largest of these mass killings occurred on October 30, 1993, and left seven people dead. These attacks temporarily drew to a close in 1994 when the UDA joined the IRA ceasefire in order to be involved in the multi-party peace talks.12


In 1987 the UDA broke from tradition by circulating a document titled “Common Sense”. This outlined the association’s support for a coalition government comprised of both Unionists and Nationalists; a new assembly which would be headed by an elected Executive, and the creation of a Bill of Rights. To further these goals, the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) was created in 1989.14

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)

The Ulster Volunteer Force was first emerged between 1912 and 1914. It was a military force, formed to oppose the implementation of the Home Rule Bill. The bill was never actually approved, mostly due to the efforts made by the UVF, who smuggled weapons into the six northern counties that were soon to be separated as Northern Ireland. Their intent was to oppose the bill by whatever means necessary.15

UVF Members16

The UVF re-formed in the early 1960's with the intent to oppose and counteract the violent Irish Republican Army (IRA). They saw themselves as descendants of the early militia, who appeared in response to the threat of a united Ireland earlier in the century. The modern UVF began as a group of two to three dozen men based in the Shankill Road area of Belfast. They were worried by the **civil rights movement** and the reforms Prime Minister Terence O'Neill was proposing. These reforms threatened Protestant power and hegemony in Northern Ireland, and the UVF viewed violence as the best resistance mechanism.17

The UVF came on the scene with 3 murders in 1966, none of which ended up killing people linked to the IRA. The first attack was in May: they threw a petrol bomb at a Catholic bar, fatally injuring a 77-year-old Protestant widow, Matila Gould, who lived next door. The second attack targeted a Catholic man named John Patrick Sullion. He was shot in the back on his way home from a night of drinking, singing “Up the republic, up the rebels."18 The third victim of the UVF was a teenage Catholic hotel barman, Peter Ward. He strayed into the Malvern Arms, a bar in the Shankill Road district, after work. In the bar, members of the UVF noticed he was Catholic, and shot after he left.19.

In the early months of 1969, there were a number of bombings at electricity and water facilities in an attempt to bring down O'Neill. The attacks were originally thought to be the works of IRA members, but it was recognized much later as an UVF operation. UVF bombing continued in December 1971 when McGurk's Bar in Belfast was blown up, killing 15 people. At this time, loyalists firmly denied participation in this disaster, claiming forensic and intelligence evidence showed the IRA was responsible. This bombing laid the groundwork for even more loyalist violence in the future.20

BBC News Report of the 1971 McGurks Bar Massacre21

In 1974 in order to gain political representation, the UVF created the Volunteer Political Party (VPP). Later in 1977, the Progressive Unionist Party was was created, in part, by member of the UVF.22

In 1974, on the third day of the UWC labor strike, a series of three car bombs went of in Dublin between 5:25 and 6:25 PM. According to BBC 23 people died and over 100 were injured. A fourth and final car bomb went off in Monagan, a nearby town, killing five and injuring another 20 civilians. This tragedy became known as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.23

"Dozens of people lay on the pavements and in the road and in front of broken shops, dead, dying or screaming with pain and shock. A newspaper photographer was sick when he saw a gutter literally running with blood. A few feet away was a human leg and next to it a head."


"I do not know which evil men did this but everyone who has practiced violence or preached violence or condoned violence must bear his share of responsibility."

- Irish Prime Minster Liam Cosgrave25

In 1993, shortly after a documentary aired on the incident, the Ulster Volunteer Force admitted responsibility for the bombings.

"Following the sinister allegations of collusion mischeviously [sic] constructed by presenters of the recent First Tuesday programme [sic] which supposedly investigated the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The UVF avails itself of this opportunity to state clearly and without reservation that the entire operation was from its conception to its successful conclusion, planned and carried out by our volunteers aided by no outside bodies.”

- UVF Statement26

The killing continued in October of 1975; the UVF made no secret about their Catholic targets. In October, UVF forces claimed 12 lives in one day, an unprecedented wave of killings and shootings. In January of 1976, six people were killed in County Armagh, 3 were killed in Cappagh, County Tyrone, and a bomb exploded at Connolly Station in Dublin.27

Connolly Station, Dublin28

In 1994, shortly after the Downing Street declaration, the UVF committed their last large scale attack. Loushinisland in County Down saw the death of 6 men: Adrian Rogan, 34; Eamon Byrne, 39; Patsy O’Hare, 35; Dan McCreanor, 59; Barney Green, 87; and Malcolm Jenkinson, 54.29 The UVF members went into a bar and shot the victims in the back with a rifle and an AK-47 as they were watching a soccer match.30

Combined Loyalist Military Command

The Combined Loyalist Military Command was created to unite the Loyalist paramilitary groups. These include the Red Hand Commando, UDA, UFF, and the UVF. In 1994 it issued a cease fire statement.31

After a widespread consultative process initiated by representations from the Ulster Democratic and Progressive Unionist Parties, and after having received confirmation and guarantees in relation to Northern Ireland's constitutional position within the United Kingdom, as well as other assurances, and, in the belief that the democratically expressed wishes of the greater number of people in Northern Ireland will be respected and upheld, the CLMC will universally cease all operational hostilities as from 12 midnight on Thursday 13th October 1994.The permanence of our ceasefire will be completely dependant upon the continued cessation of all nationalist/republican violence, the sole responsibility for a return to War lies with them.32

The complete Statement can be seen at http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/peace/docs/clmc131094.htm

Psychological Aspects

The Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defense Association are both associated with and have committed various violent acts. Their actions induced many effects beyond the simple loss of human life. Perhaps the most wide-spread effect is the psychological condition Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Diagonstic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) defines PTSD as:

"The essential feature of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one's physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate…Traumatic events that are experienced directly include, but are not limited to, military combat, violent personal assault (sexual assault, physical attack, robbery, mugging), being kidnapped, being taken hostage, terrorist attack, torture, incarceration as a prisoner of war or in a concentration camp"33

The acts of violence committed by these groups (or their specific wings) are also subject to a unique type of PTSD, Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS). This variant tends to have more severe symptoms. Other factors, such as the amount of distancing, dissociation, and exhilaration or thrill seem to relate positively with the disorder's intensity.34

However an important and perhaps unexpected effect of these groups' violence is that it may have been counter-productive to their own goals. Their hoped for achievements were undermined because their violent acts worked to increase the hate and negative perception by their opponents and in the general population. Each new act of violence results in further violent retaliation in the form revenge. This creates a seemingly unstoppable cycle of violence, with retaliation meting further retaliation. "A good stopping place for a spiral of revenge -a feud-is often hard to find."35

These acts strengthen the resolve and justification of the victims, giving them an excuse to attack back and generating backlash. Backlash from a third party often happens because the attacking group loses moral high ground with the use of violence, even if they were attacked first.36

While in Ireland we talked to a former UVF militant. He was a young man when he joined and said that he experienced the "thrill of the kill" or a sense of exhilaration that goes with the act of killing. He demonstrated the psychological term referred to as Destructive Authoritydestructive authority. He was a commander of the UVF who freely admitted to his involvement in the murders of four or more individuals, including unquestionably innocent bystanders. Most likely, he suffered from anti-social personality and possibly PTSD which makes him more susceptible to destructive demands of authority. He said he would get his orders to kill a certain man and would never even question the reason why he was killing that person except that it was an order. He suffered from blocked emotions and numbing which take away one of the major resources available to cause noncompliance.37 As years went by, this individual confessed to his acts of violence because of his Moral Development. He considered religion to be a driving force in confessing his violent acts, although he also admitted that the Protestant church, particularly the church of Ian Paisley, had been a major driving force in encouraging his interest in UVF violence. This individual now claims to be committed to working for the peace process through educating others in the mission of the Loyalist side, though he freely admits a willingness to "do it all again" if necessary.38

Violent, retaliatory actions also interfere with non-violent campaigns that may be going on at the same time. One of the ideas behind non-violent campaigns and symbolic actions is that they are dependent on others seeing their actions. Violence associated with such movement detracts from their image and effect. It also allows the loss of moral high ground to be generalized to the non-violent campaign and efforts as well.39


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