Ulster Resistance

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Ulster Resistance (UR), or the Ulster Resistance Movement (URM),[1][2][3] is an Ulster loyalist paramilitary movement established by unionists in Northern Ireland on 10 November 1986 in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.[4]


The group was launched at a three thousand-strong invitation-only meeting at the Ulster Hall. The rally was chaired by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Press Officer Sammy Wilson and addressed by party colleagues Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Ivan Foster. Also on the platform was Alan Wright, the chairman of the Ulster Clubs. The launch rally was followed by a number of similar assemblies across Northern Ireland.

At a rally in Enniskillen, Peter Robinson announced; "'Thousands have already joined the movement and the task of shaping them into an effective force is continuing. The Resistance has indicated that drilling and training has already started. The officers of the nine divisions have taken up their duties'.[5]

At a rally in the Ulster Hall, Paisley spoke of a need for an extra-governmental Third Force to fight against the aims of Irish republicanism. He was then filmed dramatically placing a red beret on his head and standing to attention.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson was also photographed wearing the militant loyalist paramilitary regalia of beret and military fatigues at an Ulster Resistance rally.[6]

A mass membership failed to materialise, but active groups were established in country areas such as County Armagh, attracting support from rural conservative Ulster Protestants.


The group collaborated with the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Red Hand Commando (RHC) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) to procure arms. In June 1987 the UVF stole more than £300,000 from the Northern Bank in Portadown. The money was used to buy 206 Vz. 58 assault rifles, 94 Browning 9mm pistols, 4 RPG-7 rocket launchers and 62 warheads, 450 RGD-5 grenades and 30,000 rounds of ammunition which arrived at Belfast docks from Lebanon in December 1987.[7] The weapons were then transported to a farm between Armagh and Portadown, to await collection by the three groups.[8]

On 8 January 1988, as they attempted to transport their share of the weapons from Portadown to Belfast in a convoy of three cars, the UDA's share was intercepted at a Royal Ulster Constabulary checkpoint. 61 assault rifles, 30 Brownings, 150 grenades and over 11,000 rounds of ammunition were seized and three UDA men arrested. Davy Payne, the UDA's North Belfast Brigadier was sentenced to 19 years in prison and the two others to 14 years each.[9] Noel Little, a UR member and former Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier who was also the Armagh chairman of the Ulster Clubs, was arrested in connection with the find under the Prevention of Terrorism Act but released without charge.

Part of the UVF's share was among weapons recovered in February 1988. A RPG7 rocket launcher with 26 warheads, 38 assault rifles, 15 Brownings, 100 grenades and 40,000 rounds of ammunition were found following searches in the Upper Crumlin Road area of North Belfast.[10]

In November 1988, part of the Ulster Resistance share of the weapons was uncovered in police searches at a number of locations in County Armagh around Markethill, Hamiltonsbawn and in Armagh town. Among the items recovered was a RPG7 rocket launcher and 5 warheads, 3 assault rifles, a Browning pistol, 10 grenades, 12,000 rounds of ammunition and combat equipment.[11] Also discovered in the arms caches were parts of a Javelin surface-to-air missile and a number of Ulster Resistance red berets.[12]

In September 1989, a 33-year-old man from Poyntzpass and a 35-year-old man from Tandragee were jailed to nine and six years respectively for storing and moving weapons and explosives on behalf of UR.[13] In January 1990, a 32-year-old former member of the UDR from Richill was jailed for 12 years for possessing UR arms and explosives. In 2013, the group was reported to have acquired more modern weapons along with stocks that were already acquired.[14]

The DUP subsequently claimed that they severed their links with the group in 1987.


The South African contacts who had helped set up the 1987 arms deal[15] were also interested in trading guns for something other than money: missile technology. In October 1988, a model of the Javelin missile aiming system was stolen from the Short Brothers factory in Belfast, which had a mostly unionist workforce.

A few months later, parts of a Blowpipe missile went missing and another Blowpipe was stolen from a Territorial Army base in Newtownards in April 1989.

Arrests in Paris

Three members of the group, Noel Little, previously arrested in connection with the 1987 importation of arms, James King, a Free Presbyterian from Killyleagh, County Down and Samuel Quinn, a sergeant in the Territorial Army from Newtownards, were arrested at the Hilton Hotel, Paris on 21 April 1989. Also arrested were a diplomat from South Africa, Daniel Storm, and an American arms dealer, Douglas Bernhart, leading to claims that the unionists were attempting to procure arms in return for missile technology from Short Brothers. The "Paris Three" were charged with arms trafficking and associating with criminals involved in terrorist activities. They were convicted in October 1991 after more than two years on remand. They received suspended sentences and fines ranging from £2,000 to £5,000.


Ulster Resistance Flag 'C' Division

The Sutton Index of Deaths[16] claims that two men killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in October 1989 were members of Ulster Resistance. Thomas Gibson, a 27-year-old labourer and part-time ambulance driver with the Territorial Army was shot dead in Kilrea, County Londonderry. Robert Metcalfe, the 40-year-old owner of an army surplus store in Lurgan was shot dead at his home in Magheralin, County Down. The families of both men denied that they had any connection with loyalist groups.[citation needed]

After the Paris revelations the group largely faded into the shadows, where they remain today. A small group broke away, naming themselves Resistance. It is believed to have joined the Combined Loyalist Military Command, although it has long since faded.

In a front page article on 10 June 2007, the Sunday Life reported that Ulster Resistance were still active and armed. A statement released by the group claimed that it had "the capability and resources to strike with deadly force". A photo accompanying the article showed two masked men posing with automatic rifles beside a banner which read "Ulster Resistance C Division". It is reported that the organisation has continued to restructure and evolve since then, and that there are at least seven divisions/brigades in Northern Ireland at present, with another "support" brigade in Britain. [17]


  1. "Local Elections Take Pulse of Northern Ireland". Associated Press. 15 May 1989.
  2. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 5 Dec 1988". Retrieved 30 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Weitzer, Ronald John. Transforming Settler States. University of California Press, 1990. p.256
  4. "CAIN: Abstracts of Organisations - 'U'". Retrieved 30 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Religion and Violence: The Case of Paisley and Ulster Evangelicals
  6. "BBC NEWS - UK - Northern Ireland - Cooler style of patient Robinson". Retrieved 30 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Sean Boyne, Gunrunners – The Covert Arms Trail to Ireland, Dublin, O'Brien, 2006. pg.368
  8. Henry McDonald & Jim Cusack, UDA – Inside the heart of loyalist terror, Ireland, Penguin, 2004. pg.157
  9. Sean Boyne, Gunrunners, The covert arms trail to Ireland, Dublin, O'Brien, 2006. pg.369
  10. Irish Times 6 February 1988 "Arms find linked to three-way Loyalist purchase"
  11. Irish Times 17 November 1988 "Ten questioned after part of huge arms shipment is found"
  12. Ed Moloney, Paisley, From demagogue to democrat, Dublin, Poolbeg, 2008. pg.316
  13. Irish Times 23 September 1989 "Two jailed in loyalist arms case"
  14. Irish Times 20 January 1990 "Man on arms charges jailed"
  15. http://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1989/08/28/international-arms-merchants-stock-both-sides-in-n-ireland/6a8e61de-2eee-463e-b416-810936eba8dd/
  16. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Retrieved 30 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Sunday Life 10 June 2007 Ulster Resistance: Renegade loyalists issue terror threat


  • Paul Arthur & Keith Jeffrey, Northern Ireland Since 1968, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996
  • Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ulster, Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1992
  • Steve Bruce, "The Red Hand", Oxford University Press, 1992
  • Jim Cusack & Henry McDonald, "UVF", Poolbeg, 2000
  • Martin Dillon, "Stone Cold", Hutchinson, 1992
  • David McKittrick, "Lost Lives", Mainstream Publishing 2001
  • Peter Taylor, "Loyalists", Bloomsbury, 1999