04 August 2005

Ulster Resistance spectre

Daily Ireland

CIARAN BARNES
To comment: c.barnes@dailyireland.com

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In the six years between December 1981 and December 1987, loyalist paramilitaries murdered 71 people.
During the next six years from January 1988 to the loyalist ceasefire in October 1994, the same paramilitaries increased their kill rate by 300 per cent – murdering 229 people.
Part of the reason for this massive rise was the huge shipment of arms they received from South Africa at the beginning of 1988.
Loyalists swopped plans for missiles developed at the Shorts weapons factory in Belfast in return for South African guns.
The British government knew about the shipment, but did nothing to prevent it arriving on these shores.
The weapons were deposited in Co Armagh before being divided evenly between the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the shadowy Ulster Resistance group.
Although it has never claimed a paramilitary killing, Ulster Resistance has allowed its weapons to be used by other loyalist paramilitary groups resulting in scores of deaths.
It is estimated the group has 70 assault rifles, 30 Browning pistols, 165 fragmentation grenades, 10,000 rounds of ammunition and four RPG7 rocket launchers hidden at different locations throughout the North.
Ulster Resistance weapons were used in the 1992 Sean Graham’s betting shop massacre in Belfast that claimed five lives and left seven others seriously wounded.
They were also used to murder brothers Rory and Gerard Cairns in the Co Armagh village of Bleary in 1993.
Following last week’s confirmation from the IRA that it is to commit to a programme of decommissioning, the UDA and UVF are now being asked what will they do with their weapons?
However, little has been mentioned of Ulster Resistance’s arms cache.
Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which played a central role in launching the organisation, has been particularly quiet on the subject of its arms.
At an Ulster Resistance rally in Belfast’s Ulster Hall in November 1986, DUP leaders Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson donned red berets while flanked by men in military style uniforms.
They were joined on stage by then Belfast mayor Sammy Wilson – the current DUP MP for East Antrim.
Mr Paisley warned Ulster Resistance was not for “the faint or half-hearted” and went on to pledge that the group would use “all means which may be found necessary to defeat the Anglo-Irish agreement”.
Also prominent at the rally were Alan Wright, a religious zealot from Armagh and leader of the Ulster Clubs, and Noel Little, a former DUP council candidate who would be arrested for Ulster Resistance gunrunning in 1989.
Mr Wright’s uncle, Dick Wright, worked for the South African weapons manufacturer Armscor and played a central role in organising the huge loyalist paramilitary arms shipment into the North in 1988.
The DUP leadership has long protested that it severed all links to Ulster Resistance when it realised the organisation was becoming militant.
A statement released by the DUP in November 1987 said that while it had encouraged recruitment for Ulster Resistance, party leaders had never been members.
Despite the denials, the spectre of Ulster Resistance will continue to hang over the DUP until the outstanding issue of its illegal weapons is dealt with.
North Belfast DUP Assemblyman Nelson McCausland refuses to talk specifically about the issue of Ulster Resistance arms.
He says he wants to see all paramilitary weapons decommissioned but the priority has to be the IRA’s because it is linked to a major political party.
Mr McCausland does not accept the DUP has a link to Ulster Resistance.
He said: “I know nothing about the organisation or anyone pertaining to represent it.
“If anyone has any questions about Ulster Resistance they should direct them to someone connected with the organisation.
“The DUP does not in any way represent Ulster Resistance.”
At a meeting of the Ulster Independence Committee (UIC) in 1989, two years after the DUP had distanced itself from Ulster Resistance, a notice of sympathy was recorded for three of its members arrested in Paris.
In echoes of what had occurred the previous year, the men were negotiating with South Africans for the supply of weaponry in return for plans of missiles developed at Shorts.
Mr McCausland was one of those in attendance at the UIC meeting when the notice of sympathy was expressed.
Speaking in 2001, the DUP man said that from what he could remember, the notice was for the three men and their families and the predicament in which they found themselves.
He insisted it did not indicate any agreement with what they were engaged in.
What this incident does highlight however, is the degree of sympathy expressed towards Ulster Resistance by some quarters of the unionist community.
Even when the whole world knew the group was involved in procuring arms to kill Catholics, unionists who style themselves as staunch opponents of paramilitarism still emphathised with its members.
Many nationalists argue that the same attitude still exists today, only now it manifests itself in a cloak of silence that covers Ulster Resistance’s hidden weapons.






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