Killing by Numbers; Part 4

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.

With the establishment of the Ulster Special Constabulary, the Ulster Volunteers stood down, with many UVF veterans joining the newly commissioned ‘Specials’, enlisting in either the ‘A’ Specials or the more numerous ‘B’ Specials.Ulster Volunteer Force machine gun unit, 1914
Although there is some anecdotal evidence that the Ulster Volunteer Force once again organised, in a limited way, during WWII, the original UVF had, almost certainly, ceased to exist by the late 1940s.

The Second UVF

It is widely believed that the Ulster Volunteer Force re-emerged in 1966, with the establishment of the ‘Second UVF’ credited to Gusty Spence. However, Spence himself claimed that he was sworn in to an already extant organisation in 1966, and insisted that that organisation was already well established and had been since at least the early 1960s.

At the time, hardline Loyalist elements were anticipating a renewed campaign of republican violence; with the failed IRA “Border Campaign” of 1956-62 still fresh in their memories and the expectation of a new outbreak of violence to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1916 republican putsch now known as the Easter Rising, some within Loyalism saw violence as being inevitable.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is safe to say that those Loyalist hardliners were correct about the inevitably of bloodshed and were incorrect only about the chronology of events.UVF Press Conference, Circa 1972
This “Second UVF” began as an organisation of no more than around 40-50 members but grew rapidly at the onset of the Conflict. By the mid 1970s the ‘new’ Ulster Volunteer Force had grown to around 1200-1800 members, although this was the organisation’s highpoint, in terms of personnel.

Almost from it’s inception the ‘Second’ UVF was extremely active and was widely regarded as being ruthless, determined and uncompromising.

The Protestant Action Force

There is evidence to suggest that the Protestant Action Force (PAF) was a semi-independent group (or groups) within the UVF who were carrying out attacks on their own initiative, or without the official sanction of the central leadership. Although, alternatively, the PAF may have originally been an independent grouping which later came under the umbrella of the Ulster Volunteer Force.
The PAF first came to public attention in late 1974, claiming responsibility for a number of attacks in Belfast, South Antrim, South Tyrone and North Armagh. On the 24th November, 1974, shortly after the name ‘PAF‘ first appeared, an interview with three unidentified men was published in the sensationalist tabloid newspaper the ‘Sunday World’. The men claimed to represent a Loyalist group that had existed since 1971, was made up of former soldiers and had killed 28 people in the past two months.

The PAF faded from view around 1976, only to re-emerge in the early 1980s. Throughout the 80s the PAF was relatively active although by mid 1991 the group (or sub-group) had once again ceased it’s activities, or had, at least, stopped claiming responsibility for the attacks which they carried out, with all such actions claimed instead by the UVF.

Red Hand Commando

The Red Hand Commando was formed in 1972, in the Shankill area of West Belfast, by John McKeague, William “Plum” Smith and a number of others from the Shankill Defence Association.
Membership was high in the Shankill and Woodvale areas, in East Belfast, South Belfast, Newtownabbey, as well as in parts of Co. Down. The RHC agreed in 1972 to become an integral part of the UVF. It kept its own structures but in operational matters agreed to share weapons and personnel and often carried out attacks in the name of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

The RHC waged it’s paramilitary campaign from 1972 until the 1994 CLMC ceasefire. According to CAIN, the Red Hand Commando killed only 13 people during their campaign, however, it is known that the RHC carried out many killings and then allowed other Loyalist armed groups, mainly the UVF, to claim responsibility for the deaths.RHC volunteers
Interestingly, the Red Hand Commando is the only armed group in Ulster not to have had a ‘supergrass’ or informant within it’s ranks at any time. A feat attributed to the well disciplined and highly secretive nature of the organisation.

Legitimate targets

The UVF, RHC and PAF had a fairly wide range of ‘legitimate targets’, although certainly not as extensive or wide-ranging as that of the Provisional IRA or other Irish republican death squads.

Amongst those considered ‘legitimate targets’ by the UVF/RHC/PAF were-

  • Members and former members of the Provisional IRA/Sinn Fein.
  • Members and former members of the Official IRA/Workers Party.
  • Members and former members of the INLA/IRSP.
  • Members of the SDLP.
  • High ranking GAA members and officials.
  • Members and former members of the IPLO.
  • Members of the Catholic Ex Servicemen’s Association.
  • Nationalist/republican business owners suspected of aiding republican armed groups (including ‘fronts’ for money laundering etc)

At various times others would have been added to that list. For example, the UVF actively targeted Prison Officers during two brief periods of ‘the Troubles’, killing two Prison Officers, although for the vast majority of their campaign, the UVF would not have regarded prison staff as targets.

How Many ‘legitimate targets’ Were There?

It is extremely difficult, indeed almost impossible, to ascertain exactly how many people would have fallen into the category of ‘legitimate targets’ for the UVF, RHC and PAF.The aftermath of the McGurk’s Bar bomb attack
For example, how many people from a nationalist/republican background owned their own businesses during ‘the Troubles’, or at some period within that time, and how many of those would have been considered sympathetic enough to republican armed groups to have given them financial or material support?

One may as well ask how many dust particles are on Olympus Mons, the enormous Martian shield volcano, for there is simply no way to know for sure. We are left, therefore, to attempt to make a reasonable estimate, at least in this case.

Fortunately, for some of the other ‘target groups’ we have much more information and can, therefore, arrive at more accurate numbers.

For example, it is known that at an estimated 10,000-15,000 individuals passed through the ranks of the Provisional IRA throughout the Conflict, with that organisation having anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 active members at any one time.
PIRA/Sinn Fein

If we assume that around 12,000 people were members of the Provisional IRA between 1969 and 1997, then that means that there were 12,000 members and former members of that group that were potential targets for the UVF/RHC/PAF.

As for Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Provisional IRA, membership numbers are difficult to come by but it is generally accepted that today the party has approximately 2,500-4,000 members in Northern Ireland.

The aftermath of the UVF ambush of a PIRA ‘active service unit’, Cappagh, East Tyrone, March, 1991.
Historically though, that membership would have been significantly lower during ‘the Troubles’. At the beginning of the Conflict membership of Provisional Sinn Fein was probably not more than 300 or 400. By around 1980, that membership would probably have risen to about 600-700.

One must also keep in mind that most of that membership would have been dedicated republicans who would have remained within the Provisional Republican Movement for most of their lives and that there would have been a significant overlap between PIRA and Sinn Fein with many ‘activists’ being members of both.

Therefore, we believe that it is reasonable to estimate that the number of people who were only members of Sinn Fein (during the entirety of ‘the Troubles’) to stand at around 1,400 in total.

Total number of PIRA/Sinn Fein members (and former members) = 13,400
OIRA/Workers Party

It is estimated that the Official IRA had a total membership of between 1,500 and 2,000 during the entirety of ‘the Troubles’. With the Workers Party having a membership of around 300-500 (who were not also members of the OIRA). It would seem reasonable to simply “split the difference” and estimate the number of OIRA/WP members at a median figure between the lower and higher estimates.

Total number of OIRA/Workers Party members (and former members) = 2,150

Various sources estimate the membership of the INLA/IRSP during the Conflict to have been between 1,500-2,500. The IRSP was (and is) comprised almost entirely of persons who were also members of the INLA, the two organisations being scarcely distinguishable from each other. Therefore we will treat the INLA and IRSP as a single grouping.

Total number of INLA/IRSP members (and former members) = 2,000
The SDLP do not publish a membership list, or disclose how many people belong to the party, however, an SDLP spokesman said recently that party membership was “in the thousands and growing steadily”. That seems like something of an exaggeration and should probably be taken with a pinch of salt.

UVF mural, Londonderry.

I think it is safe to assume that the SDLP was a far larger party in the 70s, 80s and 90s than they are at present, I think that it is also safe to assume that given that we earlier (in Parts 2 & 3) estimated that the Ulster Unionist Party had a membership of around 2,400 throughout the entire conflict, that the numbers of people who passed through the ranks of the SDLP between 1971 and 1994 (when the Combined Loyalist Military Command declared a ceasefire) would have been not more than approximately 2,000, and that at any specific time, SDLP membership was probably not more than 1,000-1,400. We will continue to use the “split the difference” rule employed previously and estimate the number of SDLP members (at any given time period throughout ‘The Troubles’) as being around 1,200.
Total number of SDLP members/party activists = 1,200
The Ulster Volunteer Force and it’s satellite groups did not target rank-and-file members of the Gaelic Athletic Association as a matter of course but did (relatively) routinely target senior members and officials of that organisation.

By senior we mean those who sat on the so-called ‘Ulster Council’, those who sat on GAA County Boards and those who were chairmen or senior members of individual clubs.

Given the number of GAA clubs in Northern Ireland prior to 1994 (approximately 380), I think it is reasonable to assume that there would have been about 1,500 ‘senior‘ GAA members/officials.

Total number of ‘senior’ GAA members/officials = 1,500
The total number of IPLO members (1986-92) is given by Wikipedia as 150-200, with 30-40 ‘volunteers’ on Active Service at any given time.

It is our belief that that estimate is somewhat low and that a more reasonable estimate would be 180-220, with about 70-80 active members at any one time. We will assume a compromise figure of 200.

Funeral of IPLO ‘Chief of Staff’ Martin O’Prey, shot dead at his home by the UVF.

Total number of IPLO members (and former members) = 200
We know (from previous exhaustive research) that at it’s height the Catholic Ex-Servicemen’s Association had a membership of around 12,000. Due to the fact that the CESA was active for only about 4-5 years we feel that it would be reasonable to assume that the total number of those involved with that paramilitary grouping would be no higher than the 12,000 previously stated.

Total number of CESA members = 12,000
Nationalist/republican business owners suspected of aiding republican armed groups
At first glance it would seem an impossible task to estimate the number of ‘legitimate targets’ in this particular group. However, we can estimate with some degree of accuracy.

According to the 1981 census (1971 we feel would be too early, while 1991 would be too late) there were just over 1.5 million people resident in Northern Ireland. Of those, an estimated 586,000 were Catholics.

Of course, we cannot assume that every Roman Catholic in N. I. at that time was a nationalist or republican, so we will estimate the nationalist/republican population at around 550,000, as it would seem reasonable that at least 36,000 Catholics would (in 1981) have considered themselves either pro-Union or politically neutral.

How many of those people would have been under 18 or over 65? We believe that a reasonable, fairly conservative estimate, would be about 30%, or 165,000.
That leaves 385,000 people of working age, approximately. Of those, some 30% were either unemployed or “economically inactive” (ie full time carers, those unfit for work through disability, illness etc) in 1981. 30% of 385,000 = 115,500.

Now we must ascertain how many of the remainder- 269,500 would have owned a business. We have hypothesised that perhaps 12% would have owned a business. That gives us a figure of 32,340. That, however, is not the final figure.

Of those 32,340 we must now try to ascertain how many that Loyalist armed groups suspected of providing aid to Irish republican extremists. The exact figure is impossible to know; would it have been as high as 50%? As low as 5%?

Given the number of business owners actively targeted by the UVF, we believe that it is reasonable to assume that they regarded around 10% as providing aid to republican organisations.

This includes Belfast ‘black taxi’ firms and self-employed drivers who were
members of organisations known to have been fronts for the Provisional IRA, INLA etc., such as the Falls Taxi Association (also known as the West Belfast Taxi Association), Crumlin Star Taxi Association etc.

10% of 32,340 is 3,234- however, those who were operating such businesses in, for example 1974, would not necessarily have been still operating in 1986 or 1993. Therefore, we must adjust our figure upwards somewhat. Would it be credible to think that the final figure should be around 5,800? We believe that it would.

Total number of Nationalist/republican business owners suspected of aiding republican armed groups = 5,800

How many ‘legitimate targets’ were actually killed?

The UVF/RHC/PAF killed 33 members of the Provisional IRA/Sinn Fein

33 = 0.25% of 13,400
The UVF/RHC/PAF killed 9 members of the Official IRA/Workers Party

9 = 0.42% of 2,150
The UVF/RHC/PAF killed 5 members of the INLA/IRSP

5 = 0.25% of 2,000
The UVF/RHC/PAF killed 10 members of the SDLP

10 = 0.83% of 1,200
The UVF/RHC/PAF killed 19 ‘senior’ GAA members/officials

19 = 1.26% of 1,500
The UVF/RHC/PAF killed 2 members of the IPLO

2 = 1% of 200
The UVF/RHC/PAF killed 7 members of the CESA

7 = 0.06% of 12,000
The UVF/RHC/PAF killed 24 Nationalist/republican business owners

24 = 0.41% of 5,800

Total number of ‘legitimate targets’ killed = 108

Total number of available targets = 38,210

108 = 0.28% of 38,210

The UVF have killed more people than any other Loyalist paramilitary group. CAIN states that the UVF/PAF and Red Hand Commando were responsible for 485 killings during ‘the Troubles‘. According to Lost Lives (2006 edition), it was responsible for 569 killings. Our research shows that the UVF/RHC/PAF were responsible for approximately 515 deaths during the Conflict.Ulster Volunteer Force show of strength



If we subtract the number of so-called ‘legitimate targets’ (108) from the number of people actually killed by the UVF/PAF and Red Hand Commando (515) we arrive at a figure of 407, however, not all of those 407 people were innocent civilians who were killed indiscriminately.

17 were alleged informers.

5 were alleged anti-social

6 were members of the Security Forces.

6 were individuals killed in feuds.

2 were members of the UVF or RHC executed for “war crimes”.

15 were members of the UVF killed by their own actions or the actions of their comrades.

2 were members of the Prison Service.

42 were civilians killed in attacks outside of Northern Ireland.

6 were relatives of republican prisoners (deliberately targeted).

4 were persons killed unintentionally during attacks on the homes of named targets.

2 were individuals killed in attacks on PIRA funerals.

Total number of ‘others’ killed = 107


When we subtract those 107 persons, classified as “others”, we arrive at a figure of 300. 407 minus 107 = 300. How many of those 300 people were targeted because of unreliable information will never be known. Certainly, at least some of those people were targeted and killed because the UVF/PAF and Red Hand Commando believed that they were legitimate targets.

That in no way excuses the killing of civilians, many of whom were killed in indiscriminate and sectarian attacks. However, it does rather destroy the myth that Loyalist paramilitary groups were mindless killers who slaughtered their victims entirely, or even mostly, at random.

Only a small fraction of the so-called ‘legitimate targets’ available were actually killed by the Ulster Volunteer Force, Protestant Action Force and Red Hand Commando, although that fraction is comparable to, and in some instances surpasses, the number of ‘legitimate targets’ killed by republican groups.

In conclusion, though the UVF/PAF and Red Hand Commando were certainly not the indiscriminate killers that they have subsequently been portrayed as being, their armed campaign was, nevertheless, not successful.

Infiltration by the agencies of the state, the so-called “Supergrass trials”, the callous, brutal and psychotic activities of the “Shankill Butchers”, the fractious nature of the relationship between the Mid Ulster Brigade and the Belfast based leadership, combined with the inactivity of UVF units (and sometimes entire brigades) in North Ulster, Co. Down and other areas of the country meant that the armed campaign of the UVF/PAF/RHC was neither sustainable nor likely to achieve a decisive and final military victory.

In Part 5 will re-examine the armed campaign of the UDA and the Ulster Freedom Fighters

Killing by Numbers; Part 3

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




The ‘Official IRA’

In early 1970, the organisation which styled itself as the ‘Irish Republican Army’ broke into two acrimonious factions- the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA.

The Officials, or ‘Stickies’ as they became known, had in fact a greater claim to be the ‘inheritors‘ of the title of ‘IRA’, since they retained as members most of those who had been active during the abortive ‘Border Campaign’ (Operation Harvest) of 1956-62.

Under their Dublin based leadership, the Officials adopted a Marxist-Leninist ideology, through which they sought to unify the working classes of Northern Ireland, both Catholic and Protestant, overthrow the state of Northern Ireland (and the Irish Republic) and thereafter establish a unified, 32 county communist state.

Official IRA ‘mobile patrol’


Because of their doctrinaire Marxism and their stated aim of unifying the working class, the Official IRA are widely regarded as being much less sectarian and markedly more cautious than either their Provisional IRA rivals or the splinter groups (INLA/IRSP and IPLO) which would later emerge from within the ‘Stickies’ own ranks.

This is somewhat borne out by the statistics, however, those statistics are skewed by the fact that the Official IRA largely abandoned violence in 1973/74 and thereafter engaged in violence only sporadically.


OIRA ‘legitimate targets’

We had assumed that the OIRA’s list of so-called ‘legitimate targets’ would have been similar to that of the Provisionals, although significantly reduced, with that list not including collaborators” (ie contractors to the Security Forces and civilians employed by the RUC and Army), the Royal Family and the Northern Ireland Judiciary.

We were however wrong in that assumption, since the Official IRA did in fact target and kill 2 civilians employed by the British Army in 1974, although we were otherwise correct, as the ‘Stickies’ do not seem to have regarded serving or former Prison Service personnel, former RUC officers, members of the Royal Family, or members of the Judiciary as legitimate targets.

We must also acknowledge that the OIRA seem to have regarded only UUP members as “legitimate targets” within the political sphere, although it is important to remember that in the time period during which the Official IRA were most active, the Ulster Unionist Party were the only mainstream Unionist party.

We know therefore that the OIRA had quite an extensive list of “legitimate targets” but nowhere near as wide-ranging a list as the Provos. We must now ascertain how many targets were available to the Official IRA during the years they were active.

The aftermath of the OIRA bomb attack on Aldershot barracks in which 7 civilians were killed, including a Catholic priest.


Taking our figures from Part 2 of our reanalysis and adjusting those figures accordingly (for the time period during which the OIRA were engaged in violence) we arrive at the following figures;

British Army (Inc. TA)– 80,000

RUC (Inc. RUC Reserve)- 13,000

UDR- 12,500

UDA/UFF- 30,000

UUP- 1,800

UVF/RHC- 2,300

Contractors/Civilians Employed by the Security Forces- 1,000

Total- 140,600


Those Actually Killed

According to CAIN, the Official IRA was responsible for 50 killings during the ‘Troubles‘. According to ‘Lost Lives‘ (2006 edition), it was responsible for 57 deaths. According to our own independent research, the Official IRA killed 57 people between 1970 and 1977, and have been responsible for 1 death since.

OIRA killed 14 British soldiers; 14 = 0.017% of 80,000

OIRA killed 1 UDR and 1 former UDR soldier; 2 = 0.016% of 12,500

OIRA killed 3 RUC officers; 3 = 0.023% of 13,000

OIRA killed 1 member of the UUP; 1 = 0.055% of 1,800

OIRA killed 2 civilians employed by the Security Forces; 2 = 0.2% of 1,000

OIRA killed 1 Loyalist paramilitary; 1 = 0.003% of 32,300

Total ‘legitimate targets’ killed; 23

Total number of available targets; 140,600

23 = 0.003% of 140,600

Of the other 35 people killed by the Official IRA, 3 were members of that organisation killed by their own actions or the actions of their comrades, 24 were civilians and 11 were rival republicans killed in feuds.


The Official IRA were not any more (or less) efficient than the Provisionals. Whilst they may, for the most part, have been somewhat more cautious when trying to avoid civilian deaths in bomb attacks etc, they did, nonetheless, target and kill civilians in drive by shootings, sectarian gun attacks etc.

Even when attempting to target the Army, RUC, UDR etc, the OIRA’s operations often ended in the death of civilians. Had the ‘Stickies’ continued their armed campaign, perhaps for another 10 years or so, they would undoubtedly have caused much more suffering and much of that suffering would have been visited on the civilian population.




The INLA/IRSP emerged from a split in the OIRA in December, 1974. Those who went on to establish the INLA fundamentally disagreed with the OIRA leadership’s decision to end their armed campaign and wished to carry on the so-called ‘Armed Struggle’.

The INLA did not start claiming responsibility for its actions under the that name until January, 1976, at which point they had already killed 12 people. Prior to 1976 they used the names People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Republican Army (PRA) to claim its attacks.

The INLA are still armed and active


INLA/IRSP legitimate targets

The INLA had an extensive and wide ranging list of ‘legitimate targets’, including;

– Army personnel in Northern Ireland

– Serving members of the Prison Service

– Serving and former members of the UDR

– Members and ex members of the UDA/UFF and UVF

– Serving and former RUC officers

– Members of the Judiciary

– Unionist/Loyalist politicians from the UUP, DUP, PUP and Ulster Democratic Party

– Senior members of the Conservative Party

– Former Armed Forces personnel living in Northern Ireland

– UK diplomatic staff in Embassies in Western Europe

This list of legitimate targets is somewhat different to that of both the Official and the Provisional IRA. For whatever reason, the INLA/IRSP do not seem to have targeted contractors to the Security Forces but did target British Embassy staff, members of the Democratic Unionist Party and others.

Using our figures and estimates from Part 2 and adjusting those figures accordingly (for the time period during which the INLA were engaged in violence) we arrive at the following figures;

British Army (Inc. TA) – 160,000

RUC (Inc. RUC Reserve) – 16,000

UDR – 16,000

Loyalist Paramilitaries – 48,000

Prison Service – 1,400

Civilian Political Activists – 4,250*

The Judiciary – 300

British Embassy Staff – 500

Former Armed Forces – 3,000


Those Actually Killed

According to CAIN, the INLA/IRSP were responsible for “at least 120 killings”, up to 2001. According to the book ‘Lost Lives’ the INLA killed 127 people.

Our own research indicates that the INLA murdered 126 people.

The INLA killed 13 British soldiers; 14 = 0.008% of 160,000

The INLA killed 13 RUC officers and 4 former RUC officers; 17 = 0.106% of 16,000

The INLA killed 11 serving and former UDR personnel; 11 = 0.068% of 16,000

The INLA killed 7 members or former members of the UDA/UFF and UVF; 7 = 0.014% of 48,000

The INLA killed 2 members of the Prison Service; 2 = 0.142% of 1,400

The INLA killed 1 politician; 1 = 0.023% of 4,250

The INLA killed 1 member of the Judiciary; 1 = 0.333% of 300

The INLA did not succeed in killing any British Embassy staff

The INLA killed 1 ex-serviceman; 1 = 0.03% of 3,000

Total ‘legitimate targets’ killed; 49

Total number of available targets; 262,050

49 = 0.018% of 262,050

Of the other 77 people killed by the INLA, 20 were members of rival republican murder gangs, or those killed in “internal disputes”. 2 were members of the Irish Security Forces, 2 were alleged criminals, 1 was an INLA member killed by his own bomb, and 5 were alleged informers. 47 were civilians.



The INLA/IRSP campaign of violence was sporadic and totally ineffective. The organisation mounted a serious and sustained campaign for only a very short period of time; 1978/79 – 1982/83.

That sustained campaign was fundamentally undermined by the UFF’s assassination of three members of the INLA ‘Army Council’ in 1980.

Republican propaganda poster commemorating the death of INLA ‘Army Council’ member Ronnie Bunting, shot dead by the Ulster Freedom Fighters.


The INLA/IRSP was further weakened by the so-called “supergrass trials” of the mid 80s, which left the organisation in disarray and eventually lead to the split which resulted in the creation of the IPLO and a fresh round of republican feuding which would leave around a dozen dead.

UVF report on the assassination of IPLO ‘Chief of Staff’ Martin O’Prey. [photo credit – Balaclava Street]


The IPLO emerged from a split within the INLA/IRSP in late 1986. Members both inside and outside of prison broke away from the INLA and set up the IPLO.

From it’s inception the IPLO was overtly sectarian, it’s first priority was, however, to forcibly disband the INLA/IRSP from which it had just split. This caused the extremely bloody IPLO-INLA feud which began in 1986 and lasted for over six months, after which the two organisations agreed to an uneasy truce.


IPLO legitimate targets

It is somewhat difficult to ascertain who exactly the IPLO regarded as being “legitimate targets” since that organisation killed only 22 individuals in the 6 years of it’s existence.

We can say for certain however that the IPLO regarded the following as being “legitimate targets”;

Members and former members of the UDA/UFF and UVF

Serving and former members of the RUC

British Armed Forces personnel in Northern Ireland

This target list is much smaller than that of either the INLA or the Official IRA and very much smaller than the list of those regarded as “legitimate targets” by the much larger Provisional IRA.

It is, however, almost impossible to ascertain exactly who the IPLO regarded as “legitimate targets” since that organisation spent almost all of it’s time engaged in either sectarian attacks, or attacks against their former comrades in the INLA.

Using our figures and estimates from Part 2 and adjusting those figures accordingly (for the time period during which the IPLO were engaged in violence) we arrive at the following figures;

Members and former members of the UDA/UFF and UVF – 24,000

Serving and former members of the RUC – 14,000

British Armed Forces personnel in Northern Ireland – 112,000


Those actually killed

According to both CAIN and ‘Lost Lives’, the IPLO were responsible for the deaths of 22 people.

Our own independent re-analysis confirms that figure.

The IPLO killed 2 members or former members of the UDA/UFF and UVF; 2 = 0.008% of 24,000

The IPLO killed 1 RUC officer; 1 = 0.007% of 14,000

The IPLO killed 1 member of the Armed Forces; 1 = 0.00089% of 112,000

Total ‘legitimate targets’ killed; 4

Total number of targets available; 150,000

4 = 0.0026% of 150,000

Of the other 18 people killed by the IPLO, 5 were members of the INLA/IRSP, 2 were members of the IPLO killed in the internal feud which put an end to the organisation. The remaining 11 people were civilians.



The IPLO were little more than a motley collection of common criminals, drug dealers and gangsters. They made little or no attempt to attack those they regarded as being ‘legitimate targets’ and instead concentrated on indiscriminate sectarian attacks and inter-republican feuds.

An armed IPLO terrorist poses for a propaganda picture


Had the IPLO not been forcibly disbanded in August, 1992, it is likely that they would have continued to periodically kill each other, rival republicans and, to maintain some level of support within the nationalist/republican community, murder Protestant civilians at random, perhaps even possibly up to the present day.


Parts 4 and 5 will focus on the Loyalist armed groups, beginning with the UVF.

Killing by Numbers; Part 2

For a summary of the methodology used in the Killing by Numbers series please see-

We will begin our re-analysis of The Troubles with a study of the republican armed groups, since they were responsible for most conflict related deaths.

In Part 3 we will deal with the smaller republican groupings but we will begin with the Provisional IRA, since they were by far the largest of such groupings and because they were also the organisation involved for the longest period of time, 1970-1998, whilst the Official IRA had all but abandoned violence by about 1975, the INLA only came into being in 1975 and the IPLO was formed only in 1985/86.



Legitimate targets


First we must ascertain who exactly the Provisional IRA regarded as “legitimate targets”. Something which is not as straightforward as one would assume.

Of course the Provisional movement regarded the Army, RUC and UDR as so-called “legitimate targets” but that particular list does not end there.

For as well as all serving soldiers and police, the Provos also regarded all former members of the Armed Forces (resident in Northern Ireland) and former police officers as legitimate targets too.

Add to that list all members of the judiciary, all serving and former members of the Prison Service, all members of the Ulster Unionist Party, the Ulster Democratic Party, the Progressive Unionist Party, the Conservative Party (at least after 1975), members of the Royal household and so-called “collaborators”, ie civilians employed in a clerical role, or as “searchers”, by the RUC and Army, those employed as cooks or cleaners in Army barracks and police stations, those who supplied foodstuffs and other goods/services to the Security Forces and those who built, maintained and repaired police stations, Army barracks and UDR bases.

In fact, the list of so-called “collaborators” was extended in the late 1980s to such a degree that even those who supplied building materials or sub-contracted to those involved in “Security work” were regarded as “legitimate targets” by PIRA/Sinn Fein.

We must also add to the list all members and former members of Loyalist paramilitary groups; the UDA/UFF, UVF and Red Hand Commando.

Therefore, the list of those regarded as “legitimate targets” by the Provisional IRA is a very extensive one. Indeed, it is the most extensive of all armed groups involved in The Troubles. It is also one made up mainly of ‘non combatants’. One can, at a stretch, see how an RUC Reservist might conceivably be classed as a combatant, however there is absolutely no way one can distort reality to such a degree that one could consider a Magistrate, a Member of Parliament or a grocer delivering fruit and vegetables to his local police station as “combatants”.

Now that we have ascertained who exactly the Provisionals thought of as “legitimate targets”, we must now attempt to ascertain just how many of these “legitimate targets” PIRA/SF actually killed?

There is a certain mythos regarding the Provos within the nationalist/republican community. They are viewed as an efficient, sophisticated and well organised group. Unfortunately for nationalists and republicans however, the facts do not support that view whatsoever.



How many legitimate targets were there?


Before we attempt to calculate the effectiveness of the Provisional IRA in targeting those they deemed as “legitimate targets” we must first ascertain how many of those “targets” there were.

We will begin with the British Army;


We know that during Operation Banner some 300,000 soldiers served in Northern Ireland. Operation Banner began in 1969 and ended only in mid 2007.

Exact troop numbers are impossible (as far as we can ascertain) to obtain for particular years, however, if we estimate that between August, 1969 and the beginning of 1970, the period at the start of the conflict before the PIRA were active, some 5,000 soldiers served in Ulster (and subsequently went on to other postings), and that between 1998 and 2007, the period after the Provisional IRA ceased ‘offensive actions’, that some 50,000 soldiers served in NI (this is a very high estimate given that troop numbers gradually decreased after 1998), then we arrive at a figure of some 55,000 soldiers who were not under threat of attack by the Provos.

Soldiers deployed in Ulster often went out on patrol without helmets, flak jackets etc

When we subtract that number from the total number of troops deployed here, we arrive at a figure of 245,000 Army personnel who were subject to PIRA/Sinn Fein attack and regarded by that group as “legitimate targets”.

However, we also have to add the approximate number of ex Armed Forces personnel resident in Northern Ireland to that number.

In this instance we will estimate that there were 3,000 such people. This is an almost implausibly low estimate but since we cannot ascertain a definite number we will err on the side of caution and go with this extremely low estimate.

Therefore we arrive at a number of 248,000 British soldiers, both serving personnel and former personnel resident in Northern Ireland, that were ‘available targets’ for the Provisional IRA.

Our research shows that the Provos killed 437 soldiers, 5 ex servicemen and 6 members of the Territorial Army. That is a total of 448.

448 = 0.18% of 248,000

So, out of 248,000 soldiers the Provisional IRA killed only 0.18%.


Other targets


The R. U. C.

We know that during most of the conflict there were approximately 13,000 serving RUC officers. We must also estimate the number of former officers. If we assume that between 1970 and 1998 about 5,000 RUC officers left the force then we arrive at a total figure of 18,000 serving and former RUC personnel.

Again, 5,000 is a very low estimate given the number of people who served for only a few years either with the full-time RUC or the RUC Reserve but again, we will go with this low estimate since a higher estimate may lead to accusations of statistical bias.

We know that the Provisional IRA killed 257 RUC officers, of which 19 were former members of the Constabulary, that means that from a pool of 18,000 potential police targets, the Provos killed 257;

257 = 1.43% of 18,000


The U. D. R.

At it’s largest, the Ulster Defence Regiment had a membership of 11,000, both full and part-time soldiers. In 1992 the regiment consisted of 3,000 full-time and 3,000 part-time members. According to several sources, the regiment saw approximately 20,000 men and women pass through it’s ranks between 1970 and 1992 when it was amalgamated with the Royal Irish Rangers to form the Royal Irish Regiment.

For the purpose of this study we will regard the RIR and the UDR as one and the same. We will assume that the RIR was, at least between 1992 and 1998, made up exclusively of ex-UDR personnel and, therefore, will not add to the total number of UDR/RIR.

The Provisional IRA killed 228 UDR/RIR, including 61 former UDR soldiers.

228 = 1.14% of 20,000


The Prison Service

Exact numbers for Prison Service personnel are unavailable, therefore we must make a reasonable estimate. For most of the conflict, the Northern Ireland Prison Service operated 4 prisons- Armagh, Crumlin Road, Magilligan and Long Kesh, with Maghaberry replacing Armagh gaol in 1986.

Assuming that a prison of a reasonable size would require at least 300 staff (in order to operate several shifts) and that Long Kesh would probably require a larger staff of around 500, then we can estimate that the Prison Service would have had approximately 1400 staff at any given point.

We now have to estimate how many former Prison Service employees there were. I think that it is reasonable to assume that there would have been (during the years 1970-1998) at least 400 ex Prison Officers, giving us a total of 1800 serving and former Prison Service staff.

Long Kesh Prison.

Throughout ‘The Troubles’, the Provisional IRA killed 22 serving and former Prison Officers.

22 = 1.22% of 1800


Contractors to the Security Forces and other “collaborators”

This is another sub-group where exact numbers are impossible to obtain. I think it is reasonable to assume that perhaps 1,000 people were employed directly by the Security Forces, as clerks, cooks, searchers, cleaners etc.

Again this is a low estimate. Every Army or UDR base must have employed at least 10-20 civilians and, of course, they would not have been the same people from 1970 right through to the 1990s (except perhaps in a handful of cases). When we add in the number of civilian searchers, employed mainly in Belfast city centre, physically searching people coming in to the commercial heart of the city, then I think 1,000 is a reasonable estimate.

The number of contractors to the Security Forces is even more difficult to estimate. There were 4 main firms employed to build, maintain and repair Security Forces installations, let us assume that each employed 150 people (including sub-contractors), that gives us a figure of 600, however, we must remember that they would not have been the same 600 people in, for example, 1981 and in 1991.

Therefore, we must add to our previous total of 600. I think it would be fair to add around 200, since the turnover rate of employees within such firms was minimal, mainly because “security work” was steady work, something which is rare in the construction industry.

That gives us a total of 800 but we must also now add in all those who supplied goods to the Security Forces. How many people provided fuel, foodstuffs, dry cleaning services, building materials etc to the RUC, Army and UDR?

Here we are almost completely in the dark but, given the sheer size of the Security Forces apparatus in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, that number must have been fairly large.

Once again we will estimate low. I think a figure of about 1,500 is reasonable but let’s be even more conservative and say that the real number was closer to 1200.

That means that when total all so-called “collaborators” together, we get a figure of 3,000.

During the conflict we know that the Provisional IRA killed 26 contractors to the Security Forces, 2 civilian searchers, 8 civilians employed by the Army or RUC and 5 people who provided goods/services to the Security Forces, giving us a total of 41.

41 = 1.36% of 3,000


Civilian political activists

The Provos considered members of the Ulster Unionist Party, Ulster Democratic Party, Progressive Unionist Party and (at least from 1975 to 1997) senior elected representatives and senior party members (for example MP’s) of the Conservative Party, to be “legitimate targets”.

Ian Gow MP. Murdered by PIRA/SF

Strangely, whether or not the Provisionals actually regarded members of the DUP as “legitimate targets”, very few serious attacks were ever carried out by PIRA/SF against DUP members or their homes/property. Therefore, we must omit the DUP from the number of potential targets and actual casualties.

How many members passed through the ranks of each party in the relevant time period? Again we are compelled to estimate.

Given that the UUP was by far the biggest Unionist party in NI throughout the conflict, and that in the 1980s the party had around 300 elected representatives, including local councillors and Members of Parliament. I think it is safe to assume that the party would have had at least 5 rank-and-file members for every elected representative.

Therefore there would have been, at any given time, approximately 1800 members of the UUP. We could reasonably assume then that over the course of 28 years the Ulster Unionist Party would have had around 2,400 members across that time period, since, of course, the party would have members leave, members emigrate, die of natural causes etc and, conversely, would have had new members joining.

Edgar Graham, regarded by many as a probable future leader of the UUP, brutally murdered by the Provisional IRA

Figures for the UDP and PUP are even more difficult to estimate. The UDP was formed in 1981 and probably never had more than 500 members pass through the ranks between it’s foundation and the signing of the Belfast Agreement.

As a former party member I would say that this is a low estimate but since exact numbers are unavailable it us best to underestimate rather than overestimate.

The PUP came into existence slightly earlier and therefore must have had more individuals come and go over the years. If we assume that the Ulster Democratic Party had a total membership of 500 (from 1981-1998) then I think it is safe to assume that the PUP would have had approximately 550 members between 1979 and 1998.

The number of Conservative party MP’s (1975-1998) is much easier to ascertain. At the 1974 General Election, the Tories won 297 seats. At the 1979 General Election, 339 Tory MP’s were elected. Most of these Members of Parliament (but by no means all) would have served throughout the 1980s and 90s. I think it is extremely reasonable to assume then, that between 1975 and 1998, there would have been around 500 Conservative MP’s and senior party members who would have been seen as “legitimate targets” by the Provisional IRA.

This gives us a total of 3,950 civilian political activists regarded as potential targets by PIRA/Sinn Fein.

We know that the Provos killed 5 members of the UUP, one of whom was also a member of the UDR and is therefore counted amongst UDR casualties. Four members of the Conservative Party were killed by the Provisional IRA and 4 members of the Ulster Democratic Party, no members of the PUP were killed, despite several assassination attempts on PUP members.

12 = 0.3% of 3,950


The Royal Family

Today there are 41 members of the Royal Family. I think it reasonable to assume therefore that there would have been around 40 members thereof for the majority of The Troubles, because of course, some members of the Royal Family who lived throughout The Troubles are no longer with us and many of the “current crop” of royals had not yet been born.

We know that the Provisional IRA killed only ONE member of the extended Royal Family, Lord Mountbatten.

1 = 2.5% of 40


The Judiciary

Throughout most of the conflict, every medium to large town in Northern Ireland had it’s own courthouse. Each of those courts would have had at least 2-3 sitting judges or magistrates and, of course, courts in the larger towns and cities would have had more.

That would mean approximately 55-65 members of the judiciary working in NI at any given time, plus twice as many, 110-130, Justices of the Peace, since traditionally there were 2 JP’s for every judge or magistrate. At the present time, according to there are currently 64 members of the judiciary in Northern Ireland plus JP’s, who are now known (since 2002) as “Lay Magistrates”.

[photo credit- OnThisDayTheIRA]

Thus, our estimate seems accurate, however, we must calculate the approximate number of judges, magistrates etc across the years (1970-1998). If we assume that a member of the judiciary will enjoy quite a long career then I think it reasonable to assume that perhaps 100 judges, magistrates, etc plus another 300 or so Justices of the Peace, would have served at one time or another between 1970 and 1998.

We know that the Provisional IRA killed 7 members of the judiciary and Justices of the Peace.

7 = 1.75% of 400


Loyalist paramilitaries

At it’s height, the Ulster Defence Association had some 40,000 members, this would also include members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Ulster Young Militants. I think therefore that it is reasonable to estimate that throughout the conflict the UDA/UFF would have seen at least 48,000 members pass through it’s ranks (and I believe that to be a conservative estimate).

Members of the UDA on the march, circa 1972

The Ulster Volunteer Force is believed to have had about 1,500 members at it’s peak. Given the high number of UVF members imprisoned, particularly in the 1970s and 80s, I think it is reasonable to estimate that the UVF (including the PAF and RHC) would have had approximately 3,200 members from 1970-1998.

48,000 + 3,200 = 51,200, a total that will no doubt surprise many people. Another surprise, for some, is that the Provisional IRA were largely ineffective against the Loyalist armed groups, killing only 25 members of the UDA/UFF and only 12 members of the UVF/Red Hand Commando, meaning that throughout ‘The Troubles’, the Provisional IRA assassinated a total of 37 Loyalist paramilitaries.

The Provisional IRA would often claim, in the wake of a sectarian assassination or gun attack, that their intended target, or the victim, was a member of the UDA/UFF or UVF. In many cases this was a purely cynical ploy, designed to disguise the fact that they were murdering Protestant civilians for purely sectarian reasons, but in many other instances the Provos genuinely believed their claims, an illustration of the poor levels of intelligence possessed by PIRA with regard to Loyalist armed groups.

Collusion; Garda sources incorrectly named Ian Sproule as a UVF member, he was subsequently murdered by the Provos.

Indeed, it could be argued that without the collusion of MI5, RUC Special Branch and (at various times) An Garda Siochana, the Provisional IRA would have been almost impotent against the Loyalist paramilitaries, as in the case of several prominent Loyalists there is, at least some, evidence of collusion; the murders of John McMichael, Cecil McKnight and Ray Smallwoods being 3 pertinent examples.

37 from a potential 51,200 is feeble, indeed, even if Loyalist paramilitaries had only numbered in the range of 4 or 5 thousand, 37 is still an extremely low number.

37 = 0.07% of 51,200



Before we attempt to arrive at a grand total we must first subtract the number of ‘others’ who died as a result of PIRA activities. By ‘others’ we mean those killed because they were believed to be informers, alleged criminals, those members of the Provisional IRA killed by their own actions or the actions of their comrades, those killed during republican feuds and those who were regarded as “legitimate targets” at the time or under the circumstances, such as English police officers, members of the Armed Forces killed outside the UK, Royal Navy personnel etc.

Our research shows that some 51 people were murdered by the Provos for being alleged informers, no fewer than 29 of whom were members of their own organisation.

Caroline Moreland, abducted, tortured, raped and subsequently murdered by PIRA/Sinn Fein who suspected her of being an informer.

10 alleged criminals were killed by the Provisional IRA between 1970 and 1998.

107 PIRA/SF members were killed by their own bombs and a further 2 were accidentally killed by their comrades. 9 died on hunger strike between 1974 and 1981 (thus falling under the definition of being killed by their own actions).

7 members of the Armed Forces were killed in attacks in Germany and the Netherlands. Only 1 Royal Navy seaman was killed by PIRA.

The funeral of Cpl. Maheshkumar Islania (right) and his baby daughter Nivruti, aged just 6 months. Cpl. Islania and his infant daughter were murdered by the Provisional IRA, October, 1989.

6 English police officers were murdered by the Provisional IRA in the line of duty.

6 members of An Garda Siochana, one member of the Irish Army and one Irish prison officer were killed by PIRA.

A further 13 people were killed by the Provisionals during republican feuds. That means our total for ‘others‘ is 214.

Eileen Kelly, aged 6, murdered by PIRA in 1975 during a republican feud


Final Totals


We will now add together all of the potential targets available to the Provisional IRA;

British Army (Inc. T. A.) – 248,000

RUC & RUC Reserve – 18,000

UDR/RIR – 20,000

Prison Service – 1,800

Sec. Forces Contractors3,000

Political activists – 3,950

Royal Family – 40

Judiciary – 400

Loyalist paramilitaries – 51,200

Total- 346,390

Number actually killed

British Army – 448

RUC – 257

UDR/RIR – 228







TOTAL – 1,053

1,053 = 0.303% of 346,390

Of those 1,053 people 163 were non-combatants- politicians, retired police officers, Justices of the Peace, etc.

Thus we can see that of all the potential “legitimate targets” available to the Provisional IRA over the course of their campaign, they actually killed just 0.3% of those “legitimate targets”.

Lost Lives’ gives a total of 1,781 people killed by the Provisional IRA. CAIN gives a total of 1,823, although both include murders carried out after 1998.

Our own independent research suggests that the Provos killed 1,810 people.

1,810 – 1,052 = 758 – 214 others =544

544 people, who were not only non-combatants but who were, by the Provisional IRA’s own very, very broad definition, not even so-called “legitimate targets”.

544 people- including babies, young children, a nun, a Dutch seaman, a party of senior citizens on an outing, at least 5 young men with learning difficulties and a widowed mother of ten.




Far from being a “sophisticated and effective” terrorist organisation, our research clearly demonstrates that the Provisional IRA, whilst extremely active and bloodthirsty, were neither sophisticated nor particularly effective.

A few “spectaculars” aside (Narrow-Water, the Brighton bomb, Canary Wharf etc), the Provos were incapable of doing serious damage to their perceived enemies.

This is further borne out by the number of failed attacks and attempted assassinations carried out by PIRA/SF. With the Provos often trying (and failing) to kill a single individual numerous times.

The result of our statistical re-analysis is clear-

For the self-appointed “defenders of the nationalist community” to have only killed 37 Loyalist militants, just 0.07% of such individuals, when Loyalist groups were regularly killing nationalists and republicans, is, by any standard, an abject and absolute failure.

For the self-appointed “liberators of the occupied 6 counties” to have killed only 0.18% of those they regarded as being the “occupying army” is, frankly, laughable.

To have been so ineffectual and yet to have claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians, many of them deliberately targeted, is a damning indictment. Especially since the Provisional IRA had the most extensive list of “legitimate targets” of any armed group in Ulster.

However, we will leave you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions.

The statistical data is unambiguous.

Killing by Numbers; Part 1

Statistical reanalysis of The Troubles



Over the course of the past 2 years, myself and my fellow ISOT ‘admin’ have re-examined approximately 75-80% of all Troubles related deaths, those attributable to either Loyalist or republican armed groups.

Our objectives were relatively simple-

1: To ascertain who exactly both sets of ‘combatants’ regarded as being “legitimate targets“.

2: To calculate how many of the aforementioned “legitimate targets” each armed group actually killed.

3: To calculate, or in some instances estimate, how many “legitimate targets” were available over the course of the conflict.

4: To calculate, as a percentage, the total number of “legitimate targetsactually killed by each ‘side’


At first glance, this seems a straightforward, if somewhat time consuming, task. In reality however, it is nowhere near as simple as it sounds. Take, for instance, the question of just who was regarded as a “legitimate target”. At first glance it seems easy to answer but it is, in fact, anything but.

At different stages of the conflict, different groups of people were regarded as “legitimate targets” by various other groups of people who wished them harm. Whilst at other times such people were left alone by those who had previously, or who would in future, seek to kill or seriously injure them.

One also has certain ethical issues to address when undertaking such a study. Often times armed groups (on both sides) would claim that a murder victim was a “legitimate target” because they, the killers, believed their victim to have been a so-called “legitimate target”.

Does the researcher take all such claims at face value? (where proof of such claims even exists). Should such claims be disregarded in instances where they later proved to be unsubstantiated, or unproven? Should such claims be accepted only where there is some evidence of their veracity, however flimsy, to back them up?

People delivering milk to their local police station were considered “legitimate targets” by Irish republican extremists.


It was clear from the beginning that clear parameters would have to be set and that certain rules would have to be applied. Therefore we agreed to the following-

a) All claims, with regard to the status of victims, would be taken into account only where there was some evidence to substantiate them, even if such evidence was suspect or circumstantial.

b) Certain groups of victims would not be regarded as “legitimate targets” in the usual way, but would not be included as “innocent victims” either*

[*this applies only to those groups/agencies who were regarded by a particular organisation as “legitimate targets” only periodically, or only under certain circumstances, those members of armed groups killed by their own actions or the actions of their comrades, those, both civilian and members of armed groups, who were killed because they were alleged informers, or those who were killed attempting to prevent an attack]

Once the number of potential targets was known (or reasonably estimated) we set out to ascertain the actual number of persons killed who fell into the “legitimate targets” category and to then arrive at a percentage.

For example, if Group A regarded the British Army in Northern Ireland as “legitimate targets”, we would calculate how many Army personnel, including former soldiers, Group A had killed; let us say, purely hypothetically, that number was 200. We would then try to arrive at a figure for potential targets, that is; the number of British Army personnel in Northern Ireland during the years within which Group A was active.

If, for example, Group A had begun their campaign in 1975 and ended it in 1998, we would need to calculate (or reasonably estimate) the number of Army personnel either serving, or resident, in Northern Ireland during those 23 years.

We know that during the entire length of ‘Operation Banner’ 300,000 British troops were deployed in Ulster. If we subtract the number who served here before 1975 and after 1998, then we arrive at a figure of approximately 200,000 (this is a high estimate since troop numbers were at their highest between about 1972 and 1994). It is then easy to work out that, from 200,000 potential targets, Group A killed 200, which is 0.1%.

We see, therefore, that our hypothetical Group A killed only 0.1% of the “legitimate targets” available to them.

Of course, no armed group targeted only one section of the Security Forces, or only one opposing group. Therefore, it is necessary to add together all potential “legitimate targets”, then to subtract the number actually killed in order to arrive at a final number and work out a percentage.

Parts 2 and 3



Parts 1 and 2 will focus on Irish republican groups which were active during at least part of the Conflict, namely- PIRA, OIRA, INLA and IPLO. We will not include CESA, since in the years that group was active, they were primarily a ‘vigilante group’ who carried out only a small number of offensive operations.



We will not include other republican “micro organisations“, such as Soar Éire, since they were responsible for only a handful of deaths and most of those were in the Irish Republic.

The so-called Republican Action Force and Catholic Reaction Force will be regarded as “flags of convenience”, used mainly by the Provisional IRA and INLA/IRSP to claim indiscriminate sectarian attacks, such as the Darkley massacre.



Parts 3 and 4



Parts 2 and 3 will focus on Loyalist armed groups and will only include those organisations which were active during at least part of the Conflict (1969-1998). Groups such as the PAF will be included but will be considered to be a part of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

The Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Freedom Fighters will be considered as a single organisation.

Part 2 will be published next week.

30 Questions Republicans Can’t (or Won’t) Answer About Alleged “Collusion”

The Irish republican narrative has apparently shifted yet again. No longer content with allegations of so-called “collusion” in certain incidents, mostly in the assassination of prominent republicans, the narrative shifted to “collusion in most cases“. Unhappy that this did not sufficiently smear Loyalism, or the Security Forces, they now seem to be heart set on a complete and total rewriting of history, now presenting armed Loyalist groups as being nothing more than mere “proxies of the British state”, armed, organised, funded and directed by the Army, MI5, UDR, RUC and even the RUC Reserve.

This ludicrous, almost laughable, narrative is so fantastical, so evidently false that I contemplated scrapping this blog post. What could be funnier and more entertaining than watching Irish supremacists, especially the online troll variety, tie themselves up in knots trying to defend such a ludicrous fairy-tale?

As comical as it is however, I feel that it is important to forensically tear apart such tall-tales. Irish republican extremists have so successfully rewritten Ulster’s recent past over the last 20 years or so that (personally) I feel that to leave any of their myths unchallenged is something of a dereliction of duty.

Especially since it is so very easy to tear apart their infantile and entirely false narrative. If, for example, collusion was, as (many) republicans now claim, “widespread and institutional”, then why did the nascent UDA have to physically defend Loyalist enclaves in Belfast with wooden batons and cudgels?

Sammy Duddy, a veteran member of the UDA in West Belfast explained the organisation’s lack of firepower thus:-

[…] we had no guns. The IRA had automatics [machine-guns], high-velocity sniper rifles, powerful pistols, the lot, but we had f**k all. There were virtually no guns on the Loyalist side. The only weapons we had were baseball bats and I just thought to myself, ‘what are we going to do when they [Irish republican terrorists] come in with their machine-guns? Throw bats at them?’


Surely if the UDA were “mere proxies of the British state”, the British state would never have allowed them to face the guns of the Official IRA and Provisional IRA (the latter organisation having been armed, organised and funded by the Irish state*) armed only with sticks and batons?

That is just one example of the ludicrous nature of the insane ‘collusion narrative’ that is spun by (some) Irish nationalists and republicans.

UDA volunteers on duty at a barricade, Belfast, circa 1971. Note the state-of-the-art weapons the men are armed with, no doubt supplied by the “evil brits”.


Below I have listed 30 questions which further destroy the twisted fantasy of “widespread and institutional collusion”. Ask your favourite republican troll some of these questions, give them a few hours to think of a reply, then sit back and laugh at their desperate mental gymnastics.


Let’s begin-


Q1. If collusion was “widespread and institutional“, as some republicans now claim, when did such collusion begin? 1969? 1970? 1971? 1975?

Q2. If such collusion did occur from the outset, why were Loyalist groups, especially the UDA, so poorly armed in the early years of the ‘Troubles’?

A ‘pen gun’, made at a clandestine Loyalist arms factory. Republicans would have you believe that the men responsible for producing this easily concealed and almost silent firearm were incapable of using it without the assistance of “the state“.


Q3. If the “British state” armed the UFF and UVF, why did they not provide those groups with explosives, which Loyalists instead had to obtain from quarries and Scottish coal mines?

Q4. If Loyalist groups were “proxies of the British state” why did the security forces kill 26 Loyalist paramilitaries during the course of the conflict?

Q5. Further to the above, why did Loyalist armed groups kill at least 14 members of the Security Forces, including UDR members and RUC officers?

Airbrushed from history. According to many Irish republicans, incidents like those detailed above simply never happened.


Q6. Why did the Army/RUC/MI5 ‘permit’ the UFF and UVF to execute high level republican informers, Brendan ‘Ruby’ Davison for example?

Q7. If collusion was “widespread and institutional” why were many thousands of Loyalist activists imprisoned, many of them given extremely long sentences?

Q8. Why did the security services intercept Loyalist arms shipments, including the colossal arsenal seized by police, customs and MI5 at Teesport, Cleveland, in November, 1993?

Q9. Furthermore, if the UFF and UVF were being armed by the “British state”, why did those organisations have to resort to buying arms from the international black market and building weapons from scratch in secret small-scale arms factories all over Ulster?

A “home-made” sub-machine gun produced by a UVF “arms factory” in the mid 1970s


Q10. If Loyalist paramilitary groups were “proxies” of the state, why did both the UFF and UVF execute those within their ranks who were alleged to be informers, including senior officers up to the rank of brigadier?

Q11. Why, in some cases, did the RUC, RUC Special Branch and MI5 collude with republicans (specifically the Provisional IRA) to murder prominent Loyalists, including individuals such as Cecil McKnight and Joe Bratty?

Cecil McKnight of the Ulster Democratic Party (Londonderry), murdered by the Provisional IRA acting in collusion with elements of RUC Special Branch


Q12. Why would “proxies of the British state” declare war on the British Army, as the UDA (East Belfast Brigade) did in 1973?

Q13. Why did “the brits” allow Loyalist armed groups to target and kill prison officers?

Q14. If Loyalists were armed by the state, why did the agencies of the state arrest and imprison UFF members who stole a large amount of guns from a UDR base in Coleraine in February, 1987?

Q15. Why were the UDR, often described by republicans as “UDR by day and UVF/UDA by night”, regularly involved in operations against Loyalist groups?

Q16. Why did the state facilitate the murder of Billy Wright, inside Long Kesh Prison Camp in December, 1997?

Q17. If Loyalists were in such close collusion with the RUC, why did many Loyalist militants welcome the formation of the PSNI?

Q18. Why did the British Army literally save the lives of prominent republicans who had been badly wounded in attempted UFF assassinations, including Gerry Adams and Bernadette McCaliskey (née Devlin)?

Q19. Further to the above, why did the Army capture the 2 Active Service Units involved in those operations, leading to a reduction in UFF activity?

Provo godfather Gerry Adams pictured some time after he had been shot in the neck and shoulder by the Ulster Freedom Fighters.


Q20. If there was ‘collusion’ between the state and Loyalist paramilitaries in every single operation ever carried out by the UFF and UVF, why would the Security Forces collude in the killing of RUC and UDR personnel?

Q21. Why did the Army tamper with ammunition in UFF and UVF arms dumps, rendering the ammunition potentially lethal to the person using it?

Q22. Why did the state “allow” Loyalist groups to target civilians in retaliatory attacks?

Q23. If such groups were the “proxies of the state” why did relatively few Loyalist attacks take place in places such as Fermanagh, the Antrim Glens, South Down etc?

Q24. Why were suspected UFF and UVF volunteers subjected to “inhumane treatment” and physical abuse within Castlereagh Holding Centre, Gough Barracks and other interrogation centres?

Castlereagh ‘torture centre’


Q25. If Loyalists were armed by the state, why then did the UVF raid the Forensics Science Laboratory in Belfast in March, 1973, making off with more than 100 weapons including an RPG-7?

Q26. Why would the Security Forces ‘allow’ such an operation to even be planned, let alone successfully carried out?

Q27. If they were indeed “armed, organised and funded” by the state, why did Loyalists go to the trouble (and risk) of uncovering republican arms caches and stealing weapons from them?

A UVF volunteer poses with an assault rifle taken from a PIRA/Sinn Fein arms dump.


[Photo credit]



Q28. Why did the state/security forces permit Loyalist paramilitary organisations to target the community “from which the terrorists receive moral, financial, logistical and material support” as policy, even though that inevitably involved the killing of civilians?

Q29. If it was deliberate policy for the state to ‘direct’ the UVF and UFF to kill “innocent men”, why then were those groups ‘permitted’ to also kill senior republicans, up to and including the Sinn Fein Vice President, members of the INLA ‘Army Council’ and PIRA ‘brigade commanders’?

Q30. When did this so-called “widespread and institutional collusion” end? Were Loyalists incapable of acting on their behalf in 1994, but capable of doing so in 1996, or 1998? Did this alleged collusion continue, even after the creation of the PSNI and the end of Operation Banner?

The aftermath of the assassination of Rosemary Nelson, killed by a Loyalist booby trap car bomb, 15th of March, 1999


*see ‘Who Armed the Provos; Dublin, Monaghan and the Civil Rights Connection’

This is Not Just Sectarianism

This is not just sectarianism, this is something far worse



There is something rotten at the heart of Irish nationalism and republicanism. Something dark and disturbing. It is a cancerous hatred, a prejudice, a bitterness that has to be seen to be believed. It is much more than simply sectarianism, though that alone would be heinous enough, it is racism. It is an ancient ethnic hatred, a pathological enmity that drives republicans to deny the humanity of their neighbours, to deny them their culture, their national identity and even their very lives.

It is virulent, nasty, bigoted, crude and it is everywhere!

To constantly, unrelentingly criticise, denigrate, insult, mock, undermine and attack any ethnic group is racism. Do the Unionist/Loyalist community qualify as an ethnic group?

The short answer is yes;

The Ulster Scots (Ulstèr-Scotch), also called Ulster Scots people (Ulstèr-Scotch fowk) or, outside of Europe, Scots-Irish (Scotch-Airisch), are an ethnic group found mostly in Northern Ireland (and to a lesser extent throughout the UK and Ireland)

So, is overt and naked hatred of an ethnic group defined as ‘racism’?

Racism has existed throughout human history. It may be defined as the hatred of one person by another — or the belief that another person is less than human — because of skin color, ethnicity, language, customs, heritage, place of birth or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person. It has influenced wars, slavery, the formation of nations, and legal codes.

Does such racist/sectarian hatred exist within the Loyalist community? The somewhat controversial answer is, no.

Loyalists and Unionists do not deny that Irish nationalists have a valid and distinctive culture. We do not deny the existence or the validity of the Gaelic language. We do not seek to equate Irish/gaelic culture with the most extreme fringes of politics and society. Loyalists do not advocate the genocide or mass expulsion of the nationalist community.

Any objective observer must conclude that, although sectarianism does exist on ‘both sides’, it is only Irish nationalism/republicanism that harbours this deep rooted and pathological racism.

So prevalent, so pervasive and so accepted is that ethnic/racial hatred that most nationalists and republicans will deny that it even exists. They will insist that the sort of comments included in this article do not represent real republicanism. They will refuse to accept the problem, will downplay it, or will attempt to excuse it by replying on the old argument that “sure both sides is as bad as each other”.

That is a convenient excuse. It is also a lie. Every single day, Loyalists, Unionists (and Protestants in general) face a barrage of abuse, insults, sectarianism and even threats. On social media, on forums, in comments sections and in real life.

This is not perpetrated by a minority of dedicated trolls but by thousands of nationalists and republicans from every corner of the British Isles and beyond.

We asked yesterday for our followers (a little over 2,000 people) to send us examples of racist/sectarian hate speech. We received dozens of examples. We also received at least seven direct messages from people asking that their details be redacted on the screenshots they sent and their identity obscured, simply to avoid more targeted harassment and even death threats from Irish republican extremists online.



Sticks and Stones


The PUL community are made of strong stuff. I am not writing this article because Loyalists and Unionists cannot hold their own against fanatical and hate-filled Irish supremacists. This article is merely to highlight the kind of vitriolic, almost psychotic hatred and bitterness that seems to lie at the dark heart of republicanism.

I would appeal for those in a position of leadership within the nationalist/republican community to try to address the malignancy within their ranks but I know full well that such an appeal would simply be ignored, such is the lack of real leadership within Irish nationalism.

The sad fact of the matter is that many within Provisional Sinn Fein and even within the SDLP, see little wrong in the sort of pernicious and toxic racism/sectarianism spewed out online by their constituents.



None so blind


There are many individuals within the republican community who regard themselves as ‘progressive’, ‘liberal’ and even ‘moderate’ but who are, in reality, every bit as extreme, intolerant and fanatical as any ISIS member.

So blinded are they by their prejudice, hatred, racism and bigotry that they cannot even see it!

They regard themselves as moral and decent people. They are anything but. They wallow in the mythology and propaganda of Irish republican extremism. They denigrate and dehumanise their Protestant neighbours. They subtly gloat over the death and mayhem caused by republican murder gangs.

Such people are extremely problematic. They cannot and will not ever be accepted as legitimate, sane, reasonable representatives of nationalism by the Loyalist/Unionist community.

Such bitter, hateful, extremist individuals must be sidelined. They must, if necessary, be ‘deplatformed’ and marginalised. You cannot reason with the unreasonable. You cannot compromise, or even negotiate, with someone who regards you as ‘sub-human’.

How bitter and twisted, how absolutely demented with racist and sectarian hatred must an individual be to dismiss your neighbours culture as “KKKulture”? Pathetically trying to denigrate that culture by childishly trying to tie it to the Ku Klux Klan. If it were not so bigoted, prejudiced and psychotic it would be funny.

I’m beginning to see a pattern here!

But surely not even racist republicans would gloat about a man who died of cancer?

Nothing is off limits to these extremists. Nothing is beyond the pale. They thrive on hatred and bigotry. These are not the victims of racism and sectarianism- they are the instigators of it.

I could have filled this blog post with hundreds of examples of Irish republican racism, vitriol and toxic hatred but I think this will suffice for now.

I would urge all members of the PUL community to screenshot or otherwise document all incidents of Irish nationalist racism and sectarianism. Do not tolerate intolerance. Do not allow these hate-mongers to go unchallenged.

No group of people on earth should be subjected to this kind of hatred, prejudice and bigotry!


Irish supremacists are pure poison. Their psychopathic hatred for Protestants, Unionists and Loyalists is comparable only to the antisemitism of the Nazis or the ethnic hatred displayed by the Hutu against the Tutsi during the Rwandan genocide.

“Innocent Men”

Plausible Deniability



If one were to believe the ramblings of Irish republicans you would be lead to believe that they (and they alone) are the sole bearers of the truth about the Ulster conflict. That, however, is the exact opposite of the situation in reality. For years republicans, especially those affiliated with PIRA/Sinn Fein, have lied, obfuscated, deceived and lied again.

We have the ludicrous sight of Gerry Adams denying that he was ever a member of the Provisional IRA and, just this week, we have learned that a prominent republican and former Roman Catholic priest has finally admitted that he was indeed a senior member of the Provisional movement.

Gerry “innocent man” Adams with his close friend Jeremy Corbyn


After decades of denials Tipperary-born Patrick Ryan has admitted his role in procuring arms, ammunition and bomb making materials on behalf of the Provos.

Patrick Ryan was at the centre of one of the highest profile extradition battles of the ‘Troubles’, with the British Government believing it had evidence which could prove he was a terrorist, but in 1988 the Irish Republic refused to extradite him to be tried in a British court.

At the time, Ryan publicly denied, repeatedly, that he had been a member of any organisation other than the Catholic church’s ‘Pioneer Total Abstinence Association’. A denial which, at the time, many knew to be a complete fabrication.

Patrick Ryan, another “innocent man”


Patrick Ryan is not the first “innocent man” to turn out to be a republican terrorist. Throughout the ‘Troubles’ there have been almost countless instances of such “innocent” men (and occasionally women) who were, in reality, anything but innocent.

I, personally, will never forget the aftermath of one particular UFF operation, in which a member of the Provisional IRA’s ‘South Derry Brigade’ was shot dead in Kilrea. His widow vehemently denied that her late husband was involved in anything. Obviously having been “well schooled” over the years to deny everything in the event of her husband being killed, she maintained that he was an “innocent man”, someone within Sinn Fein however didn’t get the memo and confirmed to the media that the dead man was a member of their party.

Few Loyalists in the South Londonderry area were surprised when, some years later, the individual in question began to be listed on PIRA memorials as a “volunteer” or “oglach“. So much for the republican notion of ‘innocence’.


Useful Idiots


Few people with an interest in the Ulster conflict would regard the ‘CAIN’ project/website as anything but impartial, at least at first glance. However, CAIN and the accompanying ‘Sutton Index of Deaths’ is anything but impartial.

One only has to visit the ‘Sutton Index’ website and take a look at the header at the top of the page. “An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland”. Innocuous? No. Why choose that title? Why not- “An Index of Deaths from the Northern Ireland conflict”? Or the “Conflict in Northern Ireland”?

The Conflict in Ireland” is pure Sinn Fein newspeak. The preferred name used by Irish republican extremists to describe the ‘Troubles’. Of course, the conflict affected people in the Irish Republic, but it affected just as many in England and beyond. To describe the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ as the “Conflict in Ireland” is a puzzling choice of words for a supposedly ‘impartial’ website.

The trouble with CAIN/Sutton however is about much more than just dubious phraseology. CAIN is unreliable, and what’s more, it seems to twist things to suit a certain narrative.

A number of PIRA, IPLO, OIRA and INLA members are listed by CAIN/Sutton as being “civilians”. The most high profile of these is Loughlin Maginn, a South Down Provo “volunteer” shot dead by the Ulster Freedom Fighters in 1988, at his home near Rathfriland, Co. Down.

Loughlin Maginn, “innocent man”


For almost 30 years nationalists and republicans maintained that Maginn was yet another “innocent man”. In fact, it is only in the past 12-18 months that republicans have finally admitted that Maginn was a PIRA/Sinn Fein terrorist, commemorating the “fallen volunteer” in typical, tacky, crass and undignified republican fashion.

CAIN/Sutton still lists Maginn as a “civilian”. He is just one of at least 17 such people, all now acknowledged as members of Irish republican murder gangs, listed by CAIN/Sutton as ‘civilians’. As far as I am aware, there is only one instance of a Loyalist paramilitary being listed by them erroneously as a civilian.

Furthermore, there are at least 8 people listed by CAIN/Sutton as being a “civilian political activist”, when in fact those in question were very much active members of either the Provisional IRA or the INLA.

Human error? Honest mistakes? Or a subtle attempt by those involved to reinforce the Irish nationalist/republican narrative? Personally, I think that the answer is rather obvious. It is my opinion that those involved in the CAIN project have allowed themselves to be used as “useful idiots” by the republican movement.

Further evidence is provided by the fact that CAIN/Sutton do not seem to recognise early republican and/or Catholic paramilitary groups, groups which were involved in some of the worst violence of the entire conflict, during the first 5 or 6 years of the ‘Troubles’. Organisations such as the ‘Catholic Ex Service-men’s Association’, an overtly sectarian paramilitary group that had an estimated membership of 12,000 men in 1972.

The Catholic Ex Service-men’s Association, circa 1972


The CESA had initially professed its loyalty to the UK and stated publicly that their aim was to maintain law and order, after 1971 however, CESA evolved into a paramilitary/vigilante organisation with links to both the Official and Provisional IRA. There is evidence that CESA (sometimes referred to as CXSA) gave weapons training to the nascent PIRA and CESA members not only manned barricades in nationalist/republican areas but also carried out violent incursions into Loyalist communities.

A relatively large number of CESA men were killed by Loyalists, some in gun battles in and around Belfast, others targeted for assassination at their homes or places of work.

Given that the CESA was a mirror image of the UDA of that period (ie a large paramilitary/vigilante organisation whose stated purpose was to physically defend their communities), why does CAIN/Sutton list CESA members as “civilians”?

Let us compare two individuals killed in 1972;

Bernard Rice, a senior member of the Catholic Ex Service-men’s Association, and William Irvine, an 18 year old UDA volunteer. Rice was shot dead by the Red Hand Commando, apparently during an exchange of fire at a barricade in Ardoyne, north Belfast, in February of that year.

William Irvine was killed in July at Oxford Street Bus Station (on ‘Bloody Friday’). William, an employee of Ulster Bus, alongside a number of colleagues, was searching for a PIRA /Sinn Fein bomb that an anonymous caller warned was planted at the crowded bus depot (giving just 22 minutes warning).

The device exploded before the men could locate it. Six people, including William and 3 of his workmates, were killed and more than 40 others (mostly women and children) were wounded, many of them seriously.

Why do CAIN/Sutton list William Irvine, correctly, as being a UDA member but list Bernard Rice as a civilian?

William Irvine died trying to save lives. Bernard Rice died during an exchange of fire between opposing paramilitary groups. William Irvine died at his place of work. Bernard Rice died manning an illegal paramilitary barricade.

Contrast and compare. (note; Rice was not killed whilst out walking, he was killed manning a republican barricade)


So much for the “impartiality” of CAIN/Sutton! We do not seek to deny that William Irvine was a member of the UDA (at the time both the UDA and the CESA were legal bodies) but surely a supposedly impartial and unbiased conflict archive would treat the UDA and organisations like the CESA in at least similar, if not identical fashion?

Perhaps CAIN, like Sinn Fein, the IRSP etc etc would like CESA to be airbrushed out of history? After all, the CESA do not fit well into the simplistic, almost childlike republican narrative, which presents the ‘Troubles’ as a monochrome, “us vs them” situation, one in which Catholic former (British) soldiers, who once proposed to carry the Union flag at a ‘civil rights’ march before later helping to train PIRA terrorists and carrying out attacks against Loyalists on their own behalf, only serve to “muddy the waters”, undermine the narrative and, therefore, they must be removed from the historical record.


Innocent vs “innocent”


Social media, and indeed wider society, is awash with republican extremists and their apologists who will repeat the lies of PIRA/Sinn Fein ad infinitum. They will cite spurious statistics, link to overtly biased Wikipedia articles and repeat pure, unadulterated propaganda, all the while believing themselves to be intellectually and morally superior to those with whom they are interacting.

That they actually believe the nonsense and hyperbole that they repeat is, perhaps, an indication of their level of indoctrination. It is very clear that they have been taught what to think, rather than most normal people who are taught how to think.

No objective, independently minded person could believe the outright lies told by the republican movement. Can anybody really keep a straight face whilst listening to Gerry Adams denying that he was ever a member of the Provisional IRA?

Can any sane person successfully argue that, for example, the ‘Pat Finucane Centre’, is impartial, independent and unbiased?

Republicans track record with regards to the truth is not only appalling, it’s actually laughable. How many “innocent men” were actually anything but innocent?

How many Sinn Fein ‘election workers’ were in fact PIRA terrorists? How many ‘civilians’ were in fact members of the Provisional IRA, INLA, OIRA, IPLO, CESA or groups affiliated with those organisations- groups like the Republican Clubs, National Graves Association, Anti H Blocks/Armagh Committee, Falls Taxi Association, etc etc etc.

Unfortunately, we will never know. Irish republicanism keeps secrets better even than their friends in the Boston mob or the Colombian drug gangs. What we do know is that dozens, possibly scores, of these “innocent men” killed during the ‘Troubles’ were far from “innocent”.

Despite the lies and propaganda of Irish republicans, militant Loyalists (and many others) know that groups such as the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the UVF were very effective at combating the enemies of Ulster.

A UFF vehicle checkpoint, Shankill Rd, Belfast, circa 1991


Of course republicans will never admit it, but then we are talking about a group of people who often will not even admit that they are republicans, will not admit their real role in the conflict, will not divulge the whereabouts of some of their victims and will never acknowledge that their campaign of terrorism was, like all their previous campaigns, a dismal and abject failure.

Tragically, that failed campaign cost the lives of many, many people who actually were innocent.