Ulster Resistance

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Ulster Resistance (UR or URM)
Participant in the Troubles
Emblem of the Ulster Resistance.png
Emblem used by the Ulster Resistance.
ActiveNovember 1986 – present
IdeologyUlster loyalism
Irish unionism
FoundersIan Paisley, Peter Robinson and Ivan Foster
Area of operationsNorthern Ireland
AlliesUlster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Red Hand Commando (RHC)
Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Opponent(s)Provisional Irish Republican Army
Irish republicans
Irish nationalists
Irish Catholics

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


The group was launched at a 3000-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.[5][6] Its aim were to "take direct action as and when required" to end the Anglo-Irish Agreement.[7]

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."[8][9]

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.[10][11][12]

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


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.[13] The weapons were then transported to a farm between Armagh and Portadown, to await collection by the three groups.[14]

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.[15] Noel Little, an Ulster Resistance 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.

Ulster Resistance Flag 'C' Division, bearing the Red Hand of Ulster emblem

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.[16]

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.[17] Also discovered in the arms caches were parts of a Javelin surface-to-air missile and a number of Ulster Resistance red berets.[18] The DUP claimed that it had severed its links with Ulster Resistance in 1987.[12][19] When the DUP were asked to condemn the Ulster Resistance in 2016 they said "the party's stance is consistent, that anyone involved in illegal activity should be investigated and face the full weight of the law."[7]

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 Ulster Resistance.[20] In January 1990, a 32-year-old former member of the UDR from Richill was jailed for 12 years for possessing Ulster Resistance arms and explosives.[21] In 2013, the group was reported to have acquired more modern weapons along with stocks that were already acquired.[citation needed]


The South African contacts who had helped set up the 1987 arms deal[22] were also interested in trading guns for 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[edit]

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.


The Sutton Index of Deaths[23] 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. 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".[citation needed] 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 mainland Britain.[24]

In June 2017, following the United Kingdom general election, the DUP's historic links with Ulster Resistance were discussed in the media in relation to the Conservative–DUP agreement.[25][26] Emma Little-Pengelly, daughter of Noel Little of the "Paris Three", was elected MP for Belfast South in that election.[27]


  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.
  3. ^ Weitzer, Ronald John. Transforming Settler States. University of California Press, 1990. p.256
  4. ^ "CAIN: Abstracts of Organisations - 'U'". Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  5. ^ McDonald, Henry; Cusack, Jim (2016). UVF - The Endgame. Poolbeg Press Ltd. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  6. ^ Cochrane, Feargal (1997). Unionist Politics and the Politics of Unionism Since the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Cork University Press. p. 158. ISBN 9781859181386. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  7. ^ a b https://web.archive.org/web/20170611140902/http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/no-dup-apology-for-ulster-resistance-despite-gun-running-leading-to-murders-1-7427864
  8. ^ Bruce, Steve. "Religion And Violence: The Case of Paisley and Ulster Evangelicals". The Irish Association for cultural, economic and social relations. University of Aberdeen. Archived from the original on 18 November 2004. Retrieved 12 June 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  9. ^ Bruce, Steve (2013). Politics and Religion in the United Kingdom. Routledge. ISBN 9781136590719. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Peter Robinson: Timeline of NI first minister and DUP leader's life". BBC News. 21 November 2015. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  11. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - Northern Ireland - Cooler style of patient Robinson". Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  12. ^ a b McBride, Sam (13 June 2016). "No DUP apology for Ulster Resistance, despite gun-running leading to murders". Belfast News Letter. Archived from the original on 11 June 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  13. ^ Sean Boyne, Gunrunners – The Covert Arms Trail to Ireland, Dublin, O'Brien, 2006. pg.368
  14. ^ Henry McDonald & Jim Cusack, UDA – Inside the heart of loyalist terror, Ireland, Penguin, 2004. pg.157
  15. ^ Sean Boyne, Gunrunners, The covert arms trail to Ireland, Dublin, O'Brien, 2006. pg.369
  16. ^ Irish Times 6 February 1988 "Arms find linked to three-way Loyalist purchase"
  17. ^ Irish Times 17 November 1988 "Ten questioned after part of huge arms shipment is found"
  18. ^ Ed Moloney, Paisley, From demagogue to democrat, Dublin, Poolbeg, 2008. pg.316
  19. ^ McKittrick, David; McVea, David (2002). Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781561310708. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  20. ^ Irish Times 23 September 1989 "Two jailed in loyalist arms case"
  21. ^ Irish Times 20 January 1990 "Man on arms charges jailed"
  22. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1989/08/28/international-arms-merchants-stock-both-sides-in-n-ireland/6a8e61de-2eee-463e-b416-810936eba8dd/
  23. ^ "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  24. ^ "A spectre from the past back to haunt peace - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk". BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  25. ^ Reporter, Record (9 June 2017). "DUP terror links and other skeletons in cupboard of party propping up Tories". dailyrecord. Archived from the original on 11 June 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  26. ^ Bowcott, Owen (11 June 2017). "Arlene Foster's stance on paramilitary groups brought into question". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 11 June 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  27. ^ "Meet the northern Irish unionists propping up May's Government". Evening Standard. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017.


  • 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