Ulster Volunteer Force

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The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is a terrorist group. They call themselves "Loyalist", but it is unclear what they are loyal to. It has been called a "paramilitary" group. It adopted the name of the previous UVF which was formed in 1912 to oppose, by armed force, the arrangements for Home Rule in Ireland. The aim of the present UVF is to ensure that Northern Ireland's constitutional position within the United Kingdom is secure.

The UVF was opposed to the reform that were being considered in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As Loyalist paramilitary groups often did not claim responsibility for the killings they committed and on many occasions used pseudonyms, it is difficult to give an accurate count of the number of people killed by each organisation. However, the UVF has been responsible, over a period of almost 30 years, for scores of assassinations in Northern Ireland, mostly of innocent Catholics. The UVF is also believed to have been responsible for the greatest loss of life in a single day when it planted bombs in Dublin and Monaghan on 17 May 1974 killing 33 innocent people.

In May 1966 the UVF killed a Catholic man in the Falls Road, Belfast. On 26 June 1966 Peter Ward (18), who was working as a barman in a pub in the Shankill Road, Belfast, was shot dead as he left work. Gusty Spence was sentenced to life imprisonment for this killing.

In the early 1970s the main centres of UVF influence were the Shankil area of Belfast, East Antrim, and parts of County Armagh. In April 1974 Merlyn Rees, then Secretary of Sate for Northern Ireland, removed the proscription on the UVF (making it a legal organisation) in an attempt to encourage it to move towards constitutional politics. However, on 2 October 1975 the UVF carried out a number of attacks in which 12 people died, 6 of them were Catholic civilians. On 3 October 1975 the UVF was once again 'proscribed'. On 5 October 1975 the security forces swooped on a number of houses in Belfast and East Antrim and arrested 26 suspected UVF men. In March 1977 the men were sentenced to a total of 700 years imprisonment.

In April 1983 Joseph Bennett, who was a commander in the UVF, became an informer giving the RUC information which lead to the conviction of 14 leading members of the UVF. In the coming years the UVF was to suffer from the effects of further informers.

During the 1990s the UVF had a particularly active unit in the Portadown area of Northern Ireland which was responsible for the killing of many innocent Catholics. The UVF became a part of the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) in 1991. In 1996 a number of disaffected 'maverick' members of the mid-Ulster brigade of the UVF broke away to form the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) under the leadership of Billy Wright.

The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is considered to be the source of political analysis for the UVF. The UVF has been on ceasefire since October 1994. The announcement of the ceasefire by the CLMC was made by Gusty Spence. [Estimates of the level of membership and the size of the arsenal of weapons available to the UVF are difficult to make. The UVF may have reached its high point with a membership of approximately 1,500 in the early 1970s. It is probable that the UVF currently has several hundred members many of whom would provide support to those who actually carry out attacks.

The UVF is believed to have access to AK-47 rifles, pistols, and revolvers. It also believed to have a small number of RPG-7 rocket launchers. The UVF has also used stolen Powergel mining explosive in a number of attacks some of which were launched in the Republic of Ireland.] Membership: Membership of the UVF is estimated to be up to several hundred, with a smaller number being 'active' members.

Arsenal: 200 AK-47 rifles, Uzi machineguns, and machine pistols (also home-made submachine guns); dozens of pistols and revolvers. The UVF also has a small number of RPG-7 rocket launchers and a small amount of Powergel (commercial plastic explosive), some of which has been used in occasional bomb attacks in the Republic of Ireland.