Ulster Volunteer Force

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is an Ulster loyalist paramilitary group. It emerged in 1966. Its first leader was Gusty Spence, a former British Army soldier from Northern Ireland. The group undertook an armed campaign of almost thirty years during The Troubles. It declared a ceasefire in 1994 and officially ended its campaign in 2007, although some of its members have continued to engage in violence and criminal activities. The group is classified as a terrorist organisation by the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.[7]

Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
LeadersBrigade Staff
Dates of operationMay 1966 – present (on ceasefire since October 1994; officially ended armed campaign in May 2007)
Group(s)Young Citizen Volunteers (youth wing)
Protestant Action Force (cover name)
Progressive Unionist Party (political representation)
Active regionsNorthern Ireland (mostly)
Republic of Ireland
Scotland (one operation)
IdeologyUlster loyalism
British unionism
Protestant extremism[1]
Size1,500 at peak in the 1970s[2] (hard core of 400–500 gunmen and bombers)[3]
Estimated several hundred members in Active service units by 1990s[4]
300 (2010[5])
7,500 (total, 2020[6])
AlliesRed Hand Commando
OpponentsProvisional IRA
Official IRA
Irish National Liberation Army
Irish People's Liberation Organization
Irish republicans
Irish nationalists
Loyalist Volunteer Force

United Kingdom

Republic of Ireland

Designated as a terrorist group by United Kingdom
 Republic of Ireland

The UVF's declared goals were to combat Irish republicanism – particularly the Irish Republican Army (IRA) – and to maintain Northern Ireland's status as part of the United Kingdom. It was responsible for more than 500 deaths. The vast majority (more than two-thirds)[8][9] of its victims were Irish Catholic civilians, who were often killed at random.[10] During the conflict, its deadliest attack in Northern Ireland was the 1971 McGurk's Bar bombing, which killed fifteen civilians. The group also carried out attacks in the Republic of Ireland from 1969 onward. The biggest of these was the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which killed 34 civilians, making it the deadliest terrorist attack of the conflict. The no-warning car bombings had been carried out by units from the Belfast and Mid-Ulster brigades. The Mid-Ulster Brigade was also responsible for the 1975 Miami Showband killings, in which three members of the popular Irish cabaret band were shot dead at a bogus military checkpoint by gunmen in British Army uniforms. Two UVF men were accidentally blown up in this attack. The UVF's last major attack was the 1994 Loughinisland massacre, in which its members shot dead six Catholic civilians in a rural pub. Until recent years,[11] it was noted for secrecy and a policy of limited, selective membership.[12][13][14][15][16] The other main loyalist paramilitary group during the conflict was the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), which had a much larger membership.

Since the ceasefire, the UVF has been involved in rioting, drug dealing and organised crime.[17] Some members have also been found responsible for orchestrating a series of racist attacks.[18]