The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) is the largest British terrorist organisation in Ireland. From its establishment in 1971 to a nominal ceasefire in 1994 the grouping killed and wounded hundreds of Irish men, women and children. Despite the declaration of a formal end to its campaign of violence in 2007 the UDA continues to carry out low-level intra-communal attacks, from punishment beatings to assassinations, many related to the importation and distribution of drugs. These criminal enterprises are now the primary source of its income and fund the lavish lifestyles of several well-known figures in the group. During the height of the conflict the UDA held the unique position of being western Europe’s only legal terrorist movement. This allowed it to commit murders under the cover-name of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) while openly organising, recruiting, training and maintaining offices under the public name of the UDA and its affiliates. The grouping’s lawful status gave it a certain cachet in the eyes of the pro-unionist media and political classes in Britain. The UDA were not “terrorists”, they were “paramilitaries”, ones with whom British journalists, politicians and officials could legitimately interact. This of course also made it useful as a quasi-legal proxy in the counter-insurgency war with the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army and its offshoots from 1966 to 2005. Despite diplomatic pressure from governments in Dublin and Washington the authorities in London and Belfast refused to ban the body for most of its active existence, only agreeing to do so in 1992 as part of the covert negotiations with the representatives of (P)IRA and Sinn Féin.
As of March 2016 the UK’s Home Office still lists the UDA as a banned organisation along with the likes of the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda:
“LIST OF PROSCRIBED GROUPS LINKED TO NORTHERN IRELAND RELATED TERRORISM
Ulster Defence Association
Ulster Freedom Fighters
Ulster Volunteer Force”
As of January 2009, the European Union still designates the UDA as a proscribed grouping:
“COUNCIL COMMON POSITION 2009/67/CFSP of 26 January 2009 updating Common Position 2001/931/CFSP on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism
27. *‘Loyalist Volunteer Force’–‘LVF’
29. *‘Orange Volunteers’–‘OV’
36. *‘Red Hand Defenders’–‘RHD’
45. *‘Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters’–‘UDA/UFF’”
Yet, incredibly, the gunmen and bombers of the UDA continue to openly operate within the north of Ireland, with the de facto agreement of the United Kingdom and with minimal interference. Furthermore much of the domestic and foreign press continues to treat them as if they were a perfectly legitimate organisation. They continue to carefully define them as “paramilitaries”, not terrorists. Take this report from today’s Belfast Telegraph:
“The Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), which was set up last year with the support of the three main loyalist paramilitary groups – the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando – has also unveiled a new Battle of the Somme centenary flag which, it hopes, will be the main flag flown in unionist areas through the summer months.
The annual proliferation of flags on lampposts across the region is riven with controversy, especially when the flags are left to become tattered in the elements or when flags carrying paramilitary motifs are erected.
At an event in Belfast to launch the new LCC initiative, UDA leader Jackie McDonald stressed the need for the younger generation of loyalists to help make it work.
“We have been trying to get our message home about a better way forward and better focus and hopefully to move everybody on in a way where we are first class loyalists, not seen somehow as second class unionists, we want our people to be first class loyalists,” he said.
Winston Irvine of the Progressive Unionist Party, which has links to the UVF, said he believed the new Somme flag would limit the erection of paramilitary symbols this summer.
Tony Blair’s former chief of staff at Downing Street Jonathan Powell was instrumental in establishing the LCC.”
Again, for non-Irish readers, some of these people are fucking terrorists or former terrorists attending press conferences, doing interviews, giving approval for community projects and being treated as “paramilitaries” by the UK or pro-UK media and political classes. It seems that in unionist and British eyes killing Irish people in the defence of the United Kingdom’s first and last colony gives you perpetual legitimacy.