Current Affairs Politics

The DUP’s Homegrown Proud Boys: UDA, UVF, RHC

As I wrote a few weeks ago, during the decades of the so-called Troubles while unionist terrorists may have pulled the triggers it was unionist politicians who pointed the guns. Yes, the close institutional link that latterly existed between the military and political wings of the (Provisional) Republican movement did not exist within the pro-union community. But when it came to loyalist violence, whether it was from gunmen-without-uniform or gunmen-out-of-uniform, the dogs on the streets knew who the militant pro-union gangs were taking inspiration or direction from, either in private or in public. The author and journalist Susan McKay, noting the coming together in the Six Counties of Brexit-supporting politicians and the representatives of ideologically similar armed groupings, makes much the same point in the Irish Times:

As the Proud Boys are to Trump, so the loyalist paramilitaries are to the Democratic Unionist Party.

“We will fight guerrilla warfare against this, until the big battle opportunity comes,” the DUP MP for East Antrim, Sammy Wilson, declared last weekend in respect of the Northern Ireland protocol. His comments followed a meeting between First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster and a group that included retired former paramilitary leaders. Deputy leader Nigel Dodd was there as well.

It came after threats were issued and incendiary devices left at the offices of the SDLP, Alliance and Sinn Féin politicians. One of those at the meeting, former UUP adviser David Campbell, recently said on one of BBC NI’s angry men shows that if loyalists had to “fight physically” again, “so be it”. After all, he reasoned, we didn’t put up with Hitler or Stalin.

Unionism is crashing backwards. The Ulster Unionist Party is by now completely incoherent.

…the DUP has decided chaos is the best plan.

Even the Associated Press’ long-time Ireland correspondent Shawn Pogatchnik, whose simplistic reporting on Irish politics has been a boon for British government propagandists for years, has been forced to explain to international readers where the danger now lies to peace on this island. From the current affairs site Politico:

Outlawed Protestant groups have written menacing letters to the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, Boris Johnson and Micheál Martin, warning they will shun Northern Ireland’s peace agreement until the post-Brexit “sea border” is removed.

The proxy group sending the letters, the Loyalist Communities Council, is legal — but the three paramilitary gangs it represents are not.

These shadowy groups still seek to wield political influence and, if denied this, reserve a full-fledged resumption of bloodshed as their only compelling card to play.

Loyalist outlaws, however, proved incompetent at running their own political fronts and have virtually no directly elected representatives today. Instead, they provide a vein of grassroots support for the Democratic Unionists.

That relationship is what makes the letters’ words more than hot air — serving, rather, as the sharp end of Democratic Unionist demands for the protocol to be scuttled.

During previous crises, unionist political parties and loyalist militants coordinated tactics and strategy — sometimes openly at protests and rallies, more often secretly. Having a legal umbrella group like the Loyalist Communities Council, founded in 2015, makes this behind-closed-doors dialogue more politically palatable.

Democratic Unionist leaders met Loyalist Communities Council representatives a week before the loyalist letters were sent. Democratic Unionist MPs since have insisted the timing was a coincidence.

Yet those Democratic Unionist MPs — reflecting the instincts of a party that for decades whipped up loyalist violence for its own ends — now cite the potential for loyalist mayhem in its own militarized anti-protocol rhetoric.

Having failed in its objective of using Brexit as a Trojan Horse to bring back a hard border to the island, a partition 2.0 for the 21st century, the Democratic Unionist Party and its allies have only one card to play. The same one far too many unionist leaders have played for the last two hundred years. And it is a card stained blood orange.

18 comments on “The DUP’s Homegrown Proud Boys: UDA, UVF, RHC

  1. I would not really place the Proud Boys in the same category as the Unionist Paramilitaries for a very simply reason.

    The primary raison d’etra of the Proud Boys is a mix of sexism and generalized authoritarianism. They don’t has as specific a regional motive as the Unionists militant or not. The Proud Boys simply want a return to “traditional” gender rules and a Putlin-like generalized authoritarians. Their idea of “traditional” roles would decided not be De Valera’s or that of 1950’s US Conservatives. For example, if they were in charge they wouldn’t so much try to stop women from working outside the home as not only ensure that husbands but more especially male kin (the Roman way!!!) have more control over their money, skills, labor, and property. For example they might want to make it so a married woman’s father (Paterfamilies!!!) able to farm out her labor much like some 19th century Dads used to do with their minor sons and daughters. The husband would not really have more recourse than his wife, and it would hold whether the woman was being made to do manual labor such as working in slaughterhouse or picking fruit, or if she had a degree in chemistry, engineering, or social working, or if she was a seamstress, an electrician, or even a certified teacher- Either way Dad could collect the money as Abraham Lincoln’s father used to.

    They wouldn’t so much try to stop divorce or abortion so much as give control to her Paterfamilies instead not only her but the husband. It would be “Rome’s rules” as they were before Christianity.

    There certainly are factions of The Proud Boys who WANT the group to be explicitly a racist organization. However, you also have major leaders such as Enrique Tarrio: a Cuban American who has skin the color of a drink 3 parts milk and one coffee with very obvious West African features. Of those who tout Western culture as superior many see it as a question of cultural breeding rather than some racial category.

    It’s not that uncommon for authoritarians and fascists throughout history to be inconsistent on issues such as anti-semitism, racism and such. Many extremists groups have either dropped or taken up racist or anti-semitic platforms at various points in their history from reasons ranging from simple expedience, to bizarre stories of different generations associated with it having different understandings of the ideology. As for the whole US Confederate Flag thing: The Proud Boys are almost inconsistent on that one, as The Nazis were on Christianity. Some make bizarre arguments that say things like “Yes Public statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Forrest Bedford (officially his statues were of him as a Confederate general but he was also a key founder of the KKK) and other Civil Wars generals, but in the spirit of fair play the same should be done for statues of Abraham Lincoln (including the memorial in DC), Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip Sheridan, and others.”

    Groups that may shift, vary, or change their position on racism or anti-semitism, or have an outright schizophrenic approach to those things, are still likely to be relentlessly consistent in their misogyny or authoritarianism.

    However, due to a cocktail of bad syllogisms, American history, fear of more stupid “whataboutism games” over slavery and Jim Crowe, and the current intellectual climate has made it so some people honestly cannot imagine an authoritarian or fascistic group that may or may not be racist, and aren’t inclined to take misogyny all that seriously, unless there’s an ironclad case that it is primarily or ultimately directed at Black, Latino, or Indian women.

    Another even more scary blind spot in my mind: Popular culture has taught most Americans to conflate the kind of person who might have joined the Freikorps in Weimar Germany with: “Just another veterans with “PTSD”.


    • I think McKay was making the more generalised contemporary comparison of politicians having violent militants on tap. The outrage over the Trump association, from torch parades to the Capitol Hill storming, reminds us how crazy it actually is here. That a political party or political bloc of parties in a small region of modern Western Europe can call upon armed militants as extra political muscle when required.

      And of course the Proud Boys don’t have an institutional history of decades of terrorism behind it. Including, in the case of the UDA, twenty years of existence as a legal terrorist organisation.


      • To me a lot of Trump’s fanatics are a mixed group ideologically, that have gotten sucked into a personality cult around him.

        The US actually has a history of politicians “having violent militants on tap”, what has changed is that historically most of them were either local tyrants or “big dogs”. The last time we saw even remotely similar challenges to an incoming then newly sworn in President it was 1861.

        The scary thing about Trump’s cult of personality-and it is a cult of personality-, along with group like the Proud Boys is that they would likely find another “champion” if Trump died tomorrow.

        I’ve said it before I’m very worried about Biden’s safety.

        I also believe that keeping such a high percentage of the American people are being pressured to stay hidden away and shuttered up in their rabbit holes, makes an already dangerous situation worst. It means that the extremists from all ends and the criminal element are a much higher percentage of the people out on the streets than would normally be the case. That is a very ugly and destructive combination for any society, IMHO. Hopefully with vaccinations picking up fast it won’t remain that way for much longer.

        *****Upcoming attractions: Once the willing are vaccinated and states are allowed to decided how much to use the right the Supreme Court decided they had in 1905 to mandate vaccines, fine refuseniks and given a serious enough emergency even physically restrain/force people to get vaccinated…..the political fall out is going to be pretty bad.


    • notimportant

      This is really not accurate.
      I’m no fan of the Proud Boys but they aren’t fascists or authoritarians.


  2. Don’t be fooled. The “outrage” within the unionist community – which, lest we forget, contains many different elements – is largely manufactured by the DUP to deflect from the complete mess they have made of the entire Brexit issue. Not least because the North clearly voted against any kind of Brexit. A few posters, some graffiti and the angriest outliers being given massive media coverage is all the evidence there is. Speaking to everyday unionists in the North, where I find anger it is directed at Brexit itself (in its entirety), at Boris Johnston and, more than anything else, at the DUP for being complicit in it all. The loyalist paramilitaries are, as you say, being directed by the DUP to make threatening noises to back up that party’s assertions of unionist outrage. These are the same people who sailed along with the DUP in backing Brexit in the first place. Will they ever learn?

    Liked by 1 person

    • True. I was looking at some stats on recent polling and elections, and the three constitutional blocs in northern society are pretty evident in the figures. A border poll is going to be influenced by a lot more than simple or assumed loyalties to IRL or UK among voters. So monolithic opinions don’t entirely exist in the two main communities (and the third or more accurately middle bloc is very much a blending of the two main voting blocs).

      That said, pro-union opinion seems to be coalescing around the idea of, well if we have to have a customs/trade/regulatory border as part of a UK-EU deal, then the place for it to be is the Six Counties’ border. Even “liberal” unionists of the BelTel variety are moving that way. Which is bringing us back to a hard border. A partition 2.0.

      Which is a dire prospect.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Completely agree Tamam, there’s something so contrived about the ‘outrage’ and the manner in which it has been deployed by the DUP and some others. But you’re spot on ASF, it is coalescing around a political end.


      • While we certainly can’t dismiss that concern entirely, ASF, I suspect with Biden and the EU totally opposed to the return of a hard border on the island, Johnson et al will choose to stick with what was agreed. Are they going to destroy, in particular, UK/US relationships for the sake of unionists? Can’t see it.


        • Yes, the balance of forces is such that it is difficult to see unionism coming out of this with a win.


        • Could be. But the hardcore of the ERG faction seems to be obsessed with getting the Johnson administration to roll back from the EU-UK deal and take up the fantasies of a WTA-style relationship again. Pure madness. Politically untenable. But the Irish Protocol is a useful lever to open up or crash the whole deal for the empire revanchists in league with the DUP.


          • In this round I’d say Taman is right. It’s highly unlikely that the UK can go against the UN, EU, and the US and win out.

            One other angle I’d suspect. What about subsets of British society outside Ulster (Scotland or England), that have some level of affinity with Ulster Unionists? I’ve heard some things that suggest such factions do exist in Scotland, parts of England, and even Wales. That some of the extremists symbols in Ulster can be found among football hooligans in parts of N. England and Scotland has had some sectarian issues that some people thing mirror what you see in N.Ireland. I also know that England has substantial White Rhoesian and White South African Communities both of whom strike me as groups that would very, very likely sympathize with The Orange Order because they share a similar Protestant history and a culture shaped by “fear of retaliation”.


          • I agree that the Protocol and other issues will be used by this UK administration as a constant source of friction with the EU. This, in order to deflect attention from the terrible deal (from their point of view) that Frost and his team agreed, and from the self-damaging implications of Brexit as a whole. From now on, every calamity will be blamed on the EU, to create a “we plucky Brits standing alone against those terrible foreigners” deflection. Will it bear fruit re the protocol? Not to my mind, for these two main reasons:
            1) The UK is swiftly gaining a reputation for making international deals then almost immediately reneging on them. Even the Johnson administration must recognise the folly in that approach.
            2) It is hard to over-estimate how wedded the Biden administration is to the GFA. It is, to them, a holy grail. They will not countenance any return to a hard border on the island of Ireland. (As a side issue, the Johnson administration must remind their US counterparts so much of the Trump outfit. Which is hardly helpful for the UK administration.)

            Here’s a piece by Simon Jenkins that encapsulates things well. Though I would fundamentally disagree with his notion that a vote on the issue should be held in Northern Ireland. That, in itself, would be counter to the deal that was struck between the EU and the UK, suggesting that it can be opened up despite it already being agreed.


            Liked by 1 person

  3. as the sectarian UDA,UVF&Co flex their muscles and play their Orange card, reneging on the belfast/Good Friday Agreement people in NI might like to note the hallmarks of Unionisn/Loyalism and take approipriate precautions.



    This is a picture of Glasgow’s own proud boys celebrating in Glasgow today – with total and utter disregard for the lock down that is in place.,

    And over in George Square in the city centre this evening another 5,000 celebrating in utter disregard. And Police Scotland who have hitherto been issuing £100 fixed penalty fines from being away from your home without good reason, they stood by and let it happen.

    But this was a political decision. The decision for no regulatory policing was political. And so the big question is who instructed that policy.

    Medical opinion is saying that the chaos of tens of thousands mingling unmasked will cause a covid spike. But the authorities, the First Minister knew that. So again why. All the effort, the front line health care effort, the deaths of healthcare workers, the lock down, the ending of social interaction as we knew it – all disregarded.

    Nicola Sturgeon has big big questions to answer. And an election looms to in seven weeks. So why, why were these proud boys allowed to have a mass covid spread party.


    • Bit of a stretch that, Willie. It was crowds of football supporters celebrating winning a league. Same thing happened at Anfield last year when they won the league. Were those Liverpool supporters Proud Boys too? As for the police being “stood by and let it happen”. The days of water cannon and baton charges are thankfully long gone, camera stills and video footage has seen to that. Liverpool supporters are still being charged, almost a year later, with offences related to their celebrations.
      Not condoning in any way what happened, but let’s not pretend it was something it wasn’t.


  5. notimportant

    First of all, let me say that I love your blog! It’s amazing to read about Ireland from somebody who isn’t pushing propaganda and gives his home country the complex analysis it deserves. It is so disheartening to read the pro-Anglo news coverage on Ireland, even here in the US written by supposed liberals!
    Now that that’s out of the way, I have to correct you on your comparison.
    The Proud Boys are a weird group for sure but the only reason they’ve been violent at all is to counter the not only out of control and completely enabled and coddled but also completely ignored and lied about violent Antifa extremists who have terrorized anybody who they don’t like both online and off for five years now (and for longer as just hipster gentrifiers before becoming Antifa) and basically trying to systematically murder cops and harassing their families and those of politicians. You don’t even have to take my word for any of this. Antifa types put everything they ever do online via their social media posts and their video streams. They are easily the dumbest criminals in history thanks to being sheltered from consequences their whole lives.
    These Antifa people are not anything like the Irish Republican groups. They are not standing up for anything. They are almost entirely privileged white gentrifiers who in reality have the same colonizer mindset as the British do. They pretend to fight for POC and the “proletariat” but it’s all virtue signaling that allows them to impose themselves on causes and movements just like they’ve taken over every aspect of cities and college towns. They are the militant arm of hipsterdom and are as authoritarian as it gets thanks to society enabling them because they have the most money and privilege. Ask any native of a neighborhood they’ve gentrified and then claimed to “protect” with their nonsense. They’re like if the most privileged unionists decided to impose themselves on Irish Republican causes and movements and use those causes and movements for their own benefit and image purposes while gentrifying working class neighborhoods.
    The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer are in the streets specifically to fight them because nobody else will. These violent Antifa punks get caught red handed doing things and get released without charges over and over. The press lies for them and basically pushes their propaganda and helps them terrorize anybody who opposes them. They show up at your house and harass you and try to burn it down but if you try to protect yourself, you’re a racist and fascist and Nazi (even if you’re a POC) and now thanks to the Capitol nonsense and the idiots on January 6, a terrorist and Insurrectionist. They originally did all of this (minus the actual violence) to the natives of the communities they gentrify, and the press acted as their propaganda arm then as well. Trump and right wingers are just a target for them to use to pretend they themselves aren’t the bad guys. They’ve been trying for a decade to make white city natives out to be exactly the same way they now make Trump supporters out to be.
    There are for sure right wing extremists (called three percenters, such as the Oath Keepers and other militias) but the Proud Boys aren’t it. They’re just largely blue collar throwbacks who for whatever reason joined an organization started by a rich fraud and who like to fight Antifa punks. They first made a name for themselves by basically acting as security for police and conservative speakers who were both constantly under attack by Antifa in the Pacific Northwest and by breaking up Antifa roadblocks and allowing people and cars to go through. Antifa cowardly attacks anybody interfering with their temper tantrums so that made the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer their sworn enemy. What Antifa has done for at least a few years now is claim they’re “fighting fascists/Nazis/Proud Boys” in any city they themselves invaded as gentrifiers as an attempt to justify their terrorizing communities they aren’t from. In reality, Proud Boys are almost exclusively in the West and especially Pacific Northwest and aren’t supported by city natives outside of those places. We view BOTH groups as unwanted invaders but career city criminals and some BLM activists view Antifa groups as useful idiots whose numbers can help them.
    Most sane people in the US know that extremists on both sides and their enablers are the problem and don’t really like any of these groups.
    You’ve been lied to about what’s going on in the US. Find the videos far left extremists put out there themselves and security camera footage. These far left extremists are the biggest threat to democracy since the white nationalist groups of the ’80s-’90s. They have murdered people in cold blood at protests they showed up at to terrorize and intimidate and have even taken over city blocks with barricades and completely illegal armed “security” who in Atlanta and Seattle murdered unarmed black kids who got near their barricade. If anything, they’re the ones acting like unionist terrorists. Look up the reality of what happened at CHOP and to Antonio Mays Jr and Secoia Turner and the reality of the Red House in Portland, among other things. They pretend to fight for others but really they’re just directly taking land through force that they would otherwise take through gentrification. They are at war with the actual working class and even with POC but many haven’t woken up to it because these gentrifiers and their behavior have been so normalized. That’s the part that constantly gets ignored. These people are not natives to the communities they terrorize and have been sheltered their whole lives from the struggles of those who were born or raised in the struggles these gentrifying infiltrators impose themselves on.
    I am not a right winger or anything like that. I’m a Democrat voting independent with far left views. Every word of what I just said is not only true but backed up with tons of evidence that gets added to every single day by these far left extremists thanks to their unbelievable need for attention.


    • notimportant

      Not sure why that was all one long block of text. Certainly wasn’t when I posted it. My bad haha


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