FAS | Intelligence | World Agencies | Para-States ||||| Search | Join FAS

Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)


The UVF is a Loyalist terrorist group formed in 1966 to oppose liberal reforms in Northern Ireland that members feared would lead to unification of Ireland. The group adopted the name of an earlier organization formed in 1912 to combat Home Rule for Ireland. The UVF’s goal is to maintain Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom; to that end, it has killed some 550 persons since 1966. The UVF and its offshoots have been responsible for some of the most vicious attacks of “The Troubles”, including horrific sectarian killings like those perpetrated in the 1970s by the UVF-affiliated “Shankill Butchers.” In October 1994, the Combined Loyalist Military Command, which included the UVF, declared a cease-fire, and the UVF’s political wing, the Progressive Unionist Party, has played an active role in the peace process. Despite the cease-fire, the organization has been involved in a series of bloody feuds with other Loyalist paramilitary organizations, although the UVF is considering a standdown similar to that of the Irish Republican Army. The Red Hand Defenders is linked to the UVF.


The UVF has been active in Belfast and the border areas of Northern Ireland, where it has carried out bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, extortion, and robberies. UVF members have been linked to recent racial attacks on minorities; however, the UVF leadership reportedly did not authorize these assaults. On occasion, it has provided advance warning to police of its attacks. Targets include nationalist civilians, Republican paramilitary groups, and, on occasion, rival Loyalist paramilitary groups. The UVF is a relatively disciplined organization with a centralized command. The Independent Monitoring Commission has said that the UVF was responsible for four killings in 2005.


Unclear, but probably several hundred supporters, with a smaller number of hard-core activists. Police counterterrorist operations and internal feuding have reduced the group’s strength and capabilities.

Location/Area of Operation

Northern Ireland. Some support on the UK mainland.

External Aid

Suspected in the past of receiving funds and arms from sympathizers overseas.

Sources and Resources

FAS | Intelligence | World Agencies | Para-States ||||| Search | Join FAS

Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood
Updated May 4, 2006