From the Loyalist blog It's Still Only Thursday, a fourth piece in a series looking at 'legitimate targets' during the North's politically violent conflict.

For an overview of the ‘Killing by Numbers’ series, please see Part 1.

Part 4; the Ulster Volunteer Force

Previously we have looked at republican armed groups and re-analysed the violent campaigns of those groups and those that they considered to be ‘legitimate targets’.

We will now look at Loyalist armed groups, beginning with the UVF and it’s smaller satellite organisations, namely the Red Hand Commando and Protestant Action Force.

The original UVF

The original Ulster Volunteer Force was formally established in 1913, in order to resist, by force if necessary, the imposition of ‘Home Rule’ on Ulster. At it’s height, the original UVF had more than 100,000 members organised into a multitude of brigades across the (then) nine counties of Ulster and including machine gun units, a medical corps, logistics corps etc.

Contrary to popular belief, the original UVF did not disappear when the Ulster Volunteers joined the British Army en masse in 1914/15, forming the 36th Ulster Division and going on to win eternal fame for their gallantry and heroism in the battles of the Great War, in particular the Battle of the Somme.

After the war, as Ireland slipped into the bloody and brutal War of Independence, the Ulster Volunteer Force remobilised to defend their homeland.

At one point, in May, 1920, the UVF even seized and (relatively briefly) held the city of Londonderry, an event now all but forgotten, apparently because it does not suit the Irish nationalist narrative.

Continue reading @ It's Still Only Thursday.

➽ Follow It's Still Only Thursday on Twitter @0nIyThursday

Killing By Numbers ➤ Part 4

From the Loyalist blog It's Still Only Thursday, a fourth piece in a series looking at 'legitimate targets' during the North's politically violent conflict.

For an overview of the ‘Killing by Numbers’ series, please see Part 1.

Part 4; the Ulster Volunteer Force

Previously we have looked at republican armed groups and re-analysed the violent campaigns of those groups and those that they considered to be ‘legitimate targets’.

We will now look at Loyalist armed groups, beginning with the UVF and it’s smaller satellite organisations, namely the Red Hand Commando and Protestant Action Force.

The original UVF

The original Ulster Volunteer Force was formally established in 1913, in order to resist, by force if necessary, the imposition of ‘Home Rule’ on Ulster. At it’s height, the original UVF had more than 100,000 members organised into a multitude of brigades across the (then) nine counties of Ulster and including machine gun units, a medical corps, logistics corps etc.

Contrary to popular belief, the original UVF did not disappear when the Ulster Volunteers joined the British Army en masse in 1914/15, forming the 36th Ulster Division and going on to win eternal fame for their gallantry and heroism in the battles of the Great War, in particular the Battle of the Somme.

After the war, as Ireland slipped into the bloody and brutal War of Independence, the Ulster Volunteer Force remobilised to defend their homeland.

At one point, in May, 1920, the UVF even seized and (relatively briefly) held the city of Londonderry, an event now all but forgotten, apparently because it does not suit the Irish nationalist narrative.

Continue reading @ It's Still Only Thursday.

➽ Follow It's Still Only Thursday on Twitter @0nIyThursday

18 comments:

  1. In reality, and I was twice targeted by loyalist paramilitaries, all 'fenians' were legitimate targets for the various loyalist groupings. Strangely I know Plum Smith and Billy Hutch, and worked with them both however the fact is the U.V.F. had a feeling the Protestant people were under extreme threat from the indigenous population and fought to defend their assumed right to be here, I recall the 'flag' or fleg protests some years ago, young gaisun out on the road while, just a few yards away were a gang of older U.V.F. members controlling all which went on, to quote Gerry, 'they haven't gone away you know'.

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  2. Menace - I know both of those men - Plum is now dead but I did a few conference events with him and Billy. I view the loyalist strategy of targeting a civilian population as a war crime although not the loyalists on the ground who did the deed as war criminals - exceptions being the Butchers and such like. It is not a tension free distinction.

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  3. I have already rubbished the credibility and motives behind this drivel so wont rehash it suffice to say the authors are 'confused with numbers'.


    This propaganda installment changes tact a little, which was expected, and now they are onto Loyalism they provide a nostalgic retelling of the origins of the glorious UVF up to present day -while we already knew with what foot they kicked with -we now know with what trigger finger they pull with.

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  4. @ AM

    "I view the loyalist strategy of targeting a civilian population as a war crime although not the loyalists on the ground who did the deed as war criminals - exceptions being the Butchers and such like. It is not a tension free distinction."

    Describing the discussion around this as not being "tension free" is probably the best way I can think of to capture it.

    Loyalist paramilitaries and their campaigns were, almost exclusively terrorist in nature. That is, as you say, they deliberately targeted a civilian population. But a very significant proportion of republican actions, even, or perhaps particularly, non-lethal actions, could likewise be described as deliberately targeting a civilian population (economic bombing campaign, Kingsmill, pub bombings in the mid 1970s). And then there are the grey areas, such as the Shankill bomb. I don't believe there was sectarian intent behind it - arguably, it had an anti-sectarian motive. But the end result was a direct, murderous attack on a civilian population.

    Is intent important? Is the calibre and quality of character of a respective paramilitary important in determining whether they are a soldier, terrorist, criminal or war-criminal?

    I wish I could offer some answers, but I can't. But what I do know is that fearless and skilled researchers into loyalism challenged views that I had.

    To add, as far as I'm concerned, the author of the piece published here is nothing more than a bigoted idiot with a blog and embarrassingly low levels of self-awareness and analytical skills. And in fact anyone I've ever seen publishing anything on ItsStillOnlyThursday (and their Twitter account) is the same. They drag the level of debate down and degrade their cause.

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    1. SP - that's right. Republicans did at times engage in sectarian targeting. I have long expressed the view that Kingsmill was a war crime. I don't regard the commercial bombing campaign as sectarian in intent - they demolished Derry and the Nationalist businesses there to boot. Somebody once commented that Belfast city centre was owned by unionists so bombing it was always going to face the charge of sectarian targeting.
      I very much agree with you (and disagree with Peter) that the Shankill bomb was nowhere near as black and white as he feels it is. There were serious rows within the ranks after it happened, with many appalled that greater care was not taken. The intention was not to kill the people in the shop. Yet the question needs raised would the IRA have taken a similar risk in a nationalist area? I don't believe they would have although there is some evidence to challenge that. My own view is that those who planned the operation rather than the people who planted the bomb were prepared to take risks in the Shankill they would not have risked in the Falls. The people planting it would have been told to clear the shop and get out. But that left far too much to chance and obviously never worked on the day. But as Peter points out, there was a much wider area threatened than just the shop.
      Another thing to bear in mind is the very strong possibility of agent involvement in that operation which has left many questions unanswered.

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  5. SP

    " I don't believe there was sectarian intent behind it - arguably, it had an anti-sectarian motive"

    Utter shite. You cannot take a large bomb into a busy shopping street and not have civilian casualties. Were those two cunts going to clear the whole street? I've no qualms about their primary target but they knew innocent blood would be spilled. It was yet another Provo sectarian attack, they were no better than the men they came to kill.

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  6. @Peter

    Those "two cunt" didn't have to clear the whole street: just the shop. The RUC reported that fruit was still on shelves in shops beside Frizzell's.

    If you are actually interested in debate, I can point you to a fascinating study of the Shankill bombing, but I suspect you're quite rigidly attached to your stance, which is your right to do so.

    If the attack had been successful, and C Company had been dealt a severe blow with no civilian casualties, would you still have considered the IRA men no better than Adair & his men?

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  7. SP
    Just the shop? Have a look on google at images from the day and look at the debris on the road. If you bring a short fuse IED onto a busy road then you are going to have innocent casualties. That was penciled into the equation just like Enniskillen. Primary target hit and a few innocent prods to boot, job done. There is no difference between the Shankill UFF and the Ardoyne PIRA both sectarian murder gangs.

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    1. Peter - Enniskillen was of a different category. There was absolutely no intent there to do anything other than kill the people attending. While there was considerable anger in the jail about it, senior people later told me they clapped on the outside when it happened because they regarded it as payback for the cop attacks on IRA funerals.

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    2. @ Peter

      I think, unfortunately, that nuance isn't something that you're interested in. If you are interested in deepening your knowledge of this event, this is a fascinating paper: https://tinyurl.com/rxu9m9t

      @AM - I think that whilst the overall economic bombing strategy wasn't overtly sectarian in intent, it probably was in practical application in many cases. As an aside, I don't think, irrespective of warnings, that bombing hotels, shops and pubs can be classified as anything other than terrorist activity.

      Put another way: the IRA didn't bomb many businesses on the Falls.

      Personally, I think the IRA would have taken similar risks with the civilian population of the Falls as they did with the Shankill, if the target presented was enticing enough. Arguably they did, anyway, as the reprisal attacks showed.

      The paper that I linked to above details the enormous pressure the Provo Belfast Brigade was under to "do something" about the loyalist murder campaign. A fascinating questions to ask is what could have happened if sectarian (or, as Peter might have it, more overtly sectarian) elements in the Provo Belfast Brigade had taken over and started their own campaign of murder against Belfast Protestants. I believe it would have had popular support and a situation could emerge similar to that of the mid 1970s, a situation that would have made the ceasefires impossible.

      Loyalist violence, so often described as a catalyst for the Provo ceasefire, could just as easily prolonged and intensified the violence, and seen much of it directed against working class Protestants.

      Delete
  8. All of this series is designed to prove the legitimacy of the paramilitary activity of the loyalist groups, i.e. there was a threat to the 'protestant community' from the IRA. It fails miserably because no such threat existed.
    After the 1956-62 campaign, the IRA really had gone away but this fact didn't suit Paisley, who needed a bogeyman, especially since the official Unionist Government was being far too friendly towards its counterpart in the South.
    Paisley spent most of the 1960s going around the North preaching at street rallies in order to manufacture this threat, while his supporters were carrying out bomb attacks on utilities and blaming these on the non-existent IRA. The resulting fear and hatred led to sectarian attacks by loyalists.
    The claimed reason for the so-called war prosecuted by loyalist paramilitary groups against their 'legitimate targets' (anyone who wasn't a loyalist) has no substance whatsoever.
    Didn't the State-let have its own special police force specifically set up to deal with such threats, on top its own loyal, armed 'civil' police force? Even if such a threat existed, why was there any need for paramilitaries to protect the state?
    The threat became a reality in 1970 as a result of the activities of Loyalist paramilitaries and those of the so-called civil police force, and a government who blamed the upheavals on the victims.

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  9. SP

    The IRA bombed an off-license close to my home at the corner of Islandbawn Street on the Falls Road -and they probably did others -for allegedly selling drink to kids. Economic targets were for the most part in no-mans-land and they did not generally bomb buisnesses along the Shankill any more than they did on the Falls -buisnesses bomb on either road were generally collateral to the intended target.

    I agree with what AM has said about the level of IRA sectarianism and would add that the IRA had a policy of not going after loyalists -they validly claimed they did not want to help the Brits make it look like a sectarian war -on the otherhand I heard others say that loyalist attacks increased support for the IRA. Meanwhile IRA volunteers would pass information onto the INLA who did act on the information.

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  10. SP - the IRA did carry out operations in nationalist areas and at times take risks with nationalist lives. One of their bombs in the 80s killed two civilians in West Belfast (think one was a member of the Worker's Party). My own view is that a lot more hard thinking would have gone into planting a bomb in West Belfast in circumstances identical to the Shankill. The fact that there was no SF votes to be lost on the Shankill would have lent itself to less caution, even unconsciously. I was at the Thomas Begley funeral - the Falls and New Lodge was lined with people. It wouldn't have been had he caused the same amount of casualties on the Falls.

    Was the commercial bombing campaign terrorist? I don't believe so - it was not the targeting of civilians. I don't regard the IRA as a terrorist organisation and was generally bemused on the occasions when I was arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist. But it did carry out many acts of terrorism.

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  11. SP
    Your link has expired.
    You think I am not interested in nuance? You are the one who said that Ardoyne PIRA's Shankill slaughter was not sectarian and that the damage was minimal. Wrong on both counts. Maybe you are looking too hard for nuance.

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  12. @ Peter.

    The paper is called "Beyond Horror: Terrorist Atrocity and the Search for Understanding The Case of the Shankill Bombing"

    I very much recommend it.

    I don't believe that the Shankill bomb attack was sectarian. But I have no problem deeming other actions by PIRA as viscerally sectarian.

    @ AM I remember the Falls Baths bombing - horrendous. The Good Samaritans bombing in Derry was similarly horrific.

    I don't necessarily dispute that the IRA would think take the risk of Catholic civilian deaths more seriously, but they still took huge risks.

    Gerry Adams is quoted as saying he was willing to wade through Protestant blood to get a united Ireland. I don't believe the man is sectarian, and I am not sure if it's true that he said it. I think that Adams, and many like him, would have waded through Protestant and Catholic blood to get to a united Ireland at one point.

    I think that the bombing of shops, workplaces, offices, factories, hotels and bars were indeed terrorist actions. At one stage I didn't, but I have come to believe that they were. A civilian population was terrorised, many were killed, and many more were terribly injured.

    Having said all that, and with a degree of dissonance, I don't believe the IRA were a terrorist organisation, not really.

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  13. SP - Adams is quoted by Des O'Hagan. No one else can authenticate it. No one else has said Adams ever expressed sentiments remotely like it. Much of the internal discussion in the mid 70s was about the sectarianism of the IRA in the 74-76 period and Adams was very critical of it as he had been when the Orr Brothers were killed by the IRA in North Belfast in 72. O'Hagan would not be in my view a reliable source and regarded smearing people much the same as Danny Morrison would.

    I take an opposite view from you on the supposed terrorism of the commercial bombing campaign but my position is an opinion not an easily established logic.

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  14. @ AM - I am sceptical about whether Adams did say it, and if he did, whether he actually believed it. I believe that Adams is anti-sectarian, but I also believes that he does not see human life as particularly valuable - I was trying to make that point, albeit not very well.

    I could be way off here, but I've always felt that the IRA's drive to keep overtly sectarian people out of its ranks was at least in part because of a recognition that people driven by sectarianism are, arguably, lower calibre than those driven by other motives. This is perhaps my own contempt for sectarianism at play, but I think there is something to it.

    In terms of the commercial bombing campaign, with reference to what is generally considered terrorism, I would accept that it does not easily fit with the definition. But I do believe that the end result was a population, or populations, living through periods of terror. From personal experience, I can recall being frightened of parked cars as a child, even when I had left Belfast.

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  15. SP - I agree, he attaches no particular to human life.

    My experience suggests there was no serious attempt to keep sectarian people out of the IRA. They may have put a muffler on the more overt sectarian utterances. Their volunteers from the interface areas seemed to be more sectarian than most. One of the chants that used to ring through the Crum in 1976 was "Up The Sectarian Assassins."
    Your definition of terrorism in the context of the bombing campaign is subjective and therefore hard to gauge. But it is based on your lived experience and that is always hard to dismiss.

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