Blood, thunder and rosettes: The multiple personalities of paramilitary loyalism between 1971 and 1988

Richard Reed*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    During the modern conflict in Northern Ireland, the paramilitaries played an important role in shaping communal identities. The loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) enjoyed significant support in the Protestant community and should be understood as one expression of Protestant insecurity. This article considers the nature of this manifestation of Protestant fear during the formative years after the formation of the UDA in 1971 and up to the end of Andy Tyrie's leadership of the organisation in 1988. It argues that the evidence uncovered by an examination of paramilitary literature, as well as that of the loyalist political parties which were affiliated with the UVF and UDA, reveals a complex persona that cannot be understood as entirely violent and exclusive. Instead, after outlining evidence for moderation, it explores what this evidence can reveal about the emergence of political thinking within parts of the UVF and UDA, and concludes that the literature demonstrates how politics was restricted by the primacy of a historical consciousness and the prevalence of sectarianism in the loyalist community, the hardening effect of republican violence, and the lack of a political niche.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-71
    Number of pages27
    JournalIrish Political Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


    • loyalism
    • moderation
    • new loyalism
    • paramilitary
    • Ulster Defence Association
    • Ulster Volunteer Force


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