The Ulster Defense Association (UDA), the largest loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, was formed in 1971 as an umbrella organization for loyalist paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). Today, the UFF constitutes almost the entire UDA membership. The UDA/UFF declared a series of cease-fires between 1994 and 1998. In September 2001, the UDA/UFF’s Inner Council withdrew its support for Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement. The following month, after a series of murders, bombings, and street violence, the British Government ruled the UDA/UFF’s cease-fire defunct. The dissolution of the organization’s political wing, the Ulster Democratic Party, soon followed. In January 2002, however, the UDA created the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) to serve in a similar capacity.
The UDA/UFF has evolved into a criminal organization involved
in drug trafficking and other moneymaking criminal activities.
In January 2002, the UDA/UFF called for an end to sectarian violence;
in the preceding months, the UDA had been blamed for more than
300 bombings and shootings against Catholics in Belfast. Nevertheless,
the UDA/ UFF continued its attacks against Catholics, as well as
those seen as a threat to its criminal enterprises. The UDA/UFF
admitted responsibility for the murder of a Catholic postman in
January, an attack also claimed by the Red Hand Defenders (RHD),
a group used as a cover name by some UDA/UFF elements. The UDA
also was blamed for a drive-by shooting that wounded three Catholics
in September. Later in the year, three deaths were attributed to
the group’s escalating feud with the Loyalist Volunteer Force
(LVF). Johnny Adair, the only person ever convicted of directing
terrorism in Northern
Ireland, was a leading UDA member until September when he was expelled from the group because of his growing ties to the LVF. In 2000, a feud between the UDA/UFF and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) resulted in the deaths of seven men.
Estimates vary from 2,000 to 5,000 members, with several hundred active in paramilitary operations.
Probably obtains weapons from abroad.