A spectre from the past back to haunt peace
Ulster resistance re-emerges issuing sinister threats
THESE hooded men brandishing rifles claim they are members of Ulster Resistance - and boast the terror gang hasn't gone away.
The shadowy loyalist group - which secured a huge arms cache in 1987 - has re-emerged like a ghost from Ulster's grim past, claiming to have "the capability and resources to strike with deadly force".
A statement purporting to come from Ulster Resistance also warns it is ready to hit back against what it describes as the "intimidation of Protestants, especially in border areas".
And the statement attacks DUP leader Ian Paisley, who encouraged the original Ulster Resistance in 1986 but who disowned it when it became linked to illegal arms and terrorism.
A Sunday Life reporter last week met with a man claiming to represent Ulster Resistance and who issued the statement on behalf of the group.
A digital camera was taken from the reporter at the meeting at a location near Portadown and was returned to him around two hours later with images of two hooded men brandishing what appear to be automatic assault rifles and a 9mm pistol.
The men are posing beside a purple banner proclaiming 'Ulster Resistance C Division'.
The spokesman said the outfit's arsenal included RPG-7 rocket launchers but insisted the organisation was not making "a statement of threat".
On the other hand, the statement warns that its ability to strike is not an " idle threat".
The statement begins by saying that following recent political developments " the Ulster Resistance feel it is time for them to speak out to try and reassure the Protestant community, who have been betrayed and let down by a number of our politicians".
It continues: "Ian Paisley has let a lot of people down and some were surprised by this, but the Ulster Resistance have known for years that Paisley would always bow under pressure. This is not a statement of threat and intimidation to anybody, but rather one to give people a reality check."
Claiming that Ulster Resistance was formed to "defend Ulster and its people against their enemies", it goes on to say "over the years the Ulster Resistance has worked closely with a number of individuals, both politically and militarily, so it would be wise to take this as no idle threat".
It states that members of loyalist paramilitary groups have approached Ulster Resistance to express discontent with the leadership of their organisations, and it contains a personal attack on current UDA leader Jackie McDonald.
"Many of those same people have pledged their support to our organisation, if and when it is needed."
On decommissioning, it claims that most UDA and UVF weaponry is " controlled by British Intelligence" through "high ranking informers " but says Ulster Resistance has been building for the last 20 years " towards the situation we find ourselves in today".
"The reason we make this statement today is to let Protestants know that they are not defenceless, regardless of what paramilitaties do."
It later adds: "We are warning the Government and Republican movement that the intimidation of Protestants, especially in border areas, must stop! There will be no more statements from us, but as in the past we will be judged by our actions. Furthermore, there are a number of people under death threats from republicans and state-backed forces. If anyone is seriously hurt or killed, the response will be tenfold."
The Irish Government is warned not to "attempt to create a United Ireland through the undermining of Ulster affairs..."
It adds: "This statement is not designed to threaten people, especially the Catholic community. However, the British goverment know that should we be needed, we have the capability and resources to strike with deadly force, because they know that our weaponry is not under their control."
It claims the "security forces know that we are probably the best armed organisation in the Protestant community".
"We all want peace and that is why we have given the peace process a chance thus far, but we feel our culture, heritage and freedom are at risk."
But claiming the Protestant community is being "backed into a corner" , it concludes by saying not everyone has been "bought, conned or infiltrated".
Platform politics to paramilitarism... how Pandora's Box opened
THE original Ulster Resistance movement emerged as a red beret-wearing, mass paramilitary-style force at an Ulster Hall rally in November 1986.
DUP leader Ian Paisley and his deputy Peter Robinson sat on the platform and donned berets at the launch of the group which aimed to smash the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
And they gave Ulster Resistance their backing at a series of other rallies held in towns across Northern Ireland in the following weeks including Newtownards, Coleraine, Portadown and Kilkeel.
Peter Robinson told one rally: "The Resistance has indicated that drilling and training has already started. The officers of the nine divisions have taken up their duties."
But Ulster Resistance never developed into the disciplined movement with a presence on "every street, every estate, every hamlet and village" that the DUP leaders had envisaged.
And the DUP severed its association with the organisation in 1987 when members were linked to arms finds.
In December 1987, a massive shipment of weapons was smuggled into Belfast docks, taken to a house near Portadown and split three ways between Ulster Resistance, the UDA and UVF.
Loyalists had paid for the seized ex-PLO weapons - which included 200 AK47 rifles, hundreds of grenades and 90 Browning 9mm pistols - through a joint UVF/UDA bank robbery in mid-Ulster that netted £300,000.
The UDA's share was seized in almost comic circumstances weeks later when an RUC patrol stopped two cars outside Portadown so laden with arms that the suspensions looked set to collapse. UDA boss Davey Payne was among those arrested.
Around half of the UVF's share of the arms was also seized by cops within weeks.
And part of Ulster Resistance's share was uncovered near Markethill in November 1988 along with stolen missile parts and Ulster Resistance berets.
The following year Ulster Resistance was linked to a bid to procure South African arms in return for stolen missile technology from Short Bros.
Three members of the group - Noel Little from Armagh, James King from Killyleagh and Samuel Quinn, a sergeant in the Newtownards TA, were arrested in Paris along with a diplomat from South Africa and an American arms dealer.
After two years on remand the 'Paris Three' were eventually convicted of receiving stolen missile parts and received fines and suspended sentences.
The group faded away following the sensational Paris revelations.
Many believed the name had become little more than a cover for the mid-Ulster UVF, which was later to spawn the breakaway LVF founded by loyalist mass murderer Billy Wright.
But the Irish News reported in 1996 that security forces suspected that Ulster Resistance "continued to act as a quartermaster" by organising an "arms pool" for loyalists.
The name briefly re-surfaced again when grenades found in a rundown Gospel hall in north Belfast were linked to an Ulster Resistance shipment from South Africa.
The raid followed sectarian attacks by a group calling itself the Red Hand Defenders, a name linked to Bible-bashing Protestant extremists and also used as cover for murderous attacks by UDA and LVF members.
The re-emergence of the Ulster Resistance name this weekend in photographs and a statement supplied to Sunday Life is likely to lead to speculation that it is merely a cover name for other paramilitaries, either dissidents or disaffected members of mainstream groups.
It is likely, too, that there will be claims the choice of name is designed to embarrass First Minister Ian Paisley and Finance Minister Peter Robinson, both so closely linked to the creation of the original Ulster Resistance.
The spokesman purporting to represent Ulster Resistance claimed the group had members in Armagh, Fermanagh, south Londonderry and Tyrone and claimed there was "a presence" in Belfast.
The reporter who met the spokesman - and who has long experience of dealing with paramilitaries in mid-Ulster - said his gut feeling was that this group has connections to the original Ulster Resistance and he does not think it is merely a cover name.