Third Force (Northern Ireland)

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The Third Force was the name given to a number of attempts by Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to create a 'defensive militia'.

The best known example was the 'third force' rallies on 1 April 1981. At a number of these rallies large groups of men displayed firearms certificates. Rallies were held on hillsides near Gortin, Newry, and Armagh. At Gortin the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) were attacked and two vehicles overturned. On 3 December 1981 Ian Paisley said that the Third Force had between 15,000 to 20,000 members.[1]

The group was established by Paisley, ostensibly as a complement to the security forces, although it bore many of the hallmarks of the earlier Ulster Protestant Volunteers [2]. It grew from opposition to the increasing pace of co-operation between the governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as in response to the murder of Robert Bradford. The group largely disappeared with the emergence of Ulster Resistance.


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