Young Citizen Volunteers (1972)

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Emblem used by the YCV.
YCV flag

The Young Citizen Volunteers of Ireland, or Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV) for short, was an Irish civic organisation founded in Belfast in 1912. It was established to bridge the gap for 18 to 25 year olds between membership of youth organisations—such as the Boys Brigade and Boy Scouts—and the period of responsible adulthood.[1] Another impetus for its creation was the failure of the British government to extend the legislation for the Territorial Force—introduced in 1908—to Ireland.[1] It was hoped that the War Office would absorb the YCV into the Territorial Force, however such offers were dismissed.[1] Not until the outbreak of World War I did the YCV—by then a battalion of the UVF—become part of the British Army as the 14th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.[1]


YCV mural off Belfast's Donegall Pass

The modern UVF was established in Belfast's Shankill Road area by Gusty Spence and others in 1966. The new group quickly undertook a sectarian campaign of arson and murder.[2] During the early 1970s a group of loyalist youths who supported Linfield F.C. congregated on the Shankill Road and were regularly involved in acts of vandalism against the nationalist Unity Flats area on their way to and from football matches. One of their number was Billy Hutchinson who was close to the UVF and who organised these youths into a new UVF youth group, resurrecting the old YCV name in the process.[3] Along with Billy Spence, Hutchinson oversaw a recruitment drive for the new group, which expanded quickly in its first few years of existence.[4] The reformation of the YCV had been organised by Gusty Spence following his escape from prison, which dates the event to 1972.[5]


YCV emblem on a UVF/PAF mural in North Belfast

Activities carried out by the YCV included throwing petrol bombs at Catholic homes.[6] Writer Tim Pat Coogan has compared it to the Fianna Éireann and Ulster Young Militants (UYM), with all three characterised as "a military scouting movement which acts as a youthful recruiting agency" for the respective paramilitary group.[7] In late 1974 the head of the YCV, who was not identified, even became the Chief of Staff of the UVF itself after a power struggle with the incumbent Ken Gibson.[8] The group expanded beyond Belfast into other UVF areas, notably Mid-Ulster where Billy Wright joined the group at around the age of 14.[9] Eddie Kinner, who went to hold leading positions in both the UVF and the Progressive Unionist Party, was also a member and demonstrated his support by sporting the initials YCV on his school bag.[10]

In late 1974 two Catholics, Michael Loughran and Eddie Morgan, were shot and killed by two YCV members, Hutchinson and Thomas Winstone, on the Falls Road.[11] During the subsequent trial, at which both defendants were convicted of murder, a Royal Ulster Constabulary officer giving evidence stated that the YCV had been reformed solely as a sectarian group to kill Catholics.[6]

Although their profile fell somewhat after Hutchinson's imprisonment the YCV continued to exist alongside the UVF for the duration of the Troubles and beyond. In 2001 it was reported by Pastor Jack McKee, a born-again Christian preacher noted for his anti-paramilitary activity, that in secondary schools around the Shankill some pupils had to be let out at different times and from different gates depending on whether they were members of the YCV or UYM, due to a loyalist feud that was ongoing between the UVF and the UDA West Belfast Brigade.[12]

Along with those of the UVF and the Red Hand Commando (RHC), YCV flags are regularly carried by loyalist flute band colour parties during the marching season, particularly in Belfast.[13]

The YCV is not listed a proscribed organisation by the British government although its UVF parent organisation is included on the list.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Young Citizen Volunteers 10th September 1912. Ulster-Scots Community Network. 2012.
  2. ^ Martin Dillon, The Shankill butchers: the real story of cold-blooded mass murder. Routledge, 1999. pp 20–23
  3. ^ Peter Taylor, Loyalists, Bloomsbury, 2000, pp. 81-82
  4. ^ Roy Garland, Gusty Spence, Blackstaff Press, 2001, p. 52
  5. ^ Garland, Gusty Spence, p. 147
  6. ^ a b W.D. Flackes & Sydney Elliott, Northern Ireland: A political Directory 1968-1993, Blackstaff Press, 1994, p. 358
  7. ^ Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles, Hutchinson, 1995, p. 282
  8. ^ Cusack & McDonald, UVF, pp. 151-152
  9. ^ Martin Dillon, The Trigger Men, Mainstream Publishing, 2003, pp. 22-24
  10. ^ Dominic Sandbrook, State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974, Penguin, 2011
  11. ^ Taylor, Loyalists, p. 140
  12. ^ Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack, 'UDA: Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror, Penguin Ireland, 2004, p. 339
  13. ^ Dominic Bryan, Orange Parades: The Politics of Ritual, Tradition and Control, Pluto Press, 2000, pp. 131; 164
  14. ^ Proscribed Terrorist Organisations
  • Coogan, Tim Pat (1995). The Troubles. Hutchinson.
  • Dillon, Martin (1999). The Shankill butchers: the real story of cold-blooded mass murder. Routledge.
  • McDonald, Henry; Cusack, Jim (2004). UDA: Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror. Penguin Ireland.
  • Sandbrook, Dominic (2011). State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974. Penguin.