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 member Sammy Wilson and addressed by party colleagues Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Ivan Foster. Also on the platform at the rally 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'.
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.
The group collaborated with the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) 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. The weapons were then transported to a farm between Armagh and Portadown, to await collection by the three groups.
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. A UR member, Noel Little, a former Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier and 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 of the weapons 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.
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 itself. 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. Also discovered in the arms caches were parts of a Javelin surface-to-air missile and a number of Ulster Resistance red berets.
In September 1989 a 33-year-old man from Poyntzpass and a 35-year-old man from Tandragee were jailed to 9 years and 6 years respectively for storing and moving weapons and explosives on behalf of UR. 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.
The DUP subsequently claimed that they had severed links with the group in 1987.
The South African contacts who had helped set up the 1987 arms deal 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 loyalist workforce.
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 Newtownards Territorial Army were arrested at the Hilton Hotel, Paris on 21 April 1989 along with a diplomat from South Africa, Daniel Storm and an American arms dealer, Douglas Bernhart, leading to claims that they 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.
The "Sutton Index of Deaths" 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.
After the Paris revelations the group largely faded. A small group continued on as Resistance and 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 claimed to once again be 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.
- CAIN entry on Ulster Resistance
- Religion and Violence: The Case of Paisley and Ulster Evangelicals
- Sean Boyne, Gunrunners – The Covert Arms Trail to Ireland, Dublin, O'Brien, 2006. pg.368
- Henry McDonald & Jim Cusack, UDA – Inside the heart of loyalist terror, Ireland, Penguin, 2004. pg.157
- Sean Boyne, Gunrunners, The covert arms trail to Ireland, Dublin, O'Brien, 2006. pg.369
- Irish Times 6 February 1988 "Arms find linked to three-way Loyalist purchase"
- Irish Times 17 November 1988 "Ten questioned after part of huge arms shipment is found"
- Ed Moloney, Paisley, From demagogue to democrat, Dublin, Poolbeg, 2008. pg.316
- Irish Times 23 September 1989 "Two jailed in loyalist arms case"
- Irish Times 20 January 1990 "Man on arms charges jailed"
- 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