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Ulster Volunteer Force

Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Formed in 1913, as the military backup to Ulster loyalist resistance to the third Home Rule Bill, and led by ex-British army officers and generals, the UVF achieved success in the Larne gun-running. Its membership totalled 100,000. It ceased with the First World War, but its veterans were the basis of the Ulster Special Constabulary, formed in 1920–1. The name was resuscitated in the mid-1960s for a secret protestant paramilitary force, responsible for sectarian assassinations, preceding the outbreak of widespread violence in 1969. Outlawed in the 1970s, it remained less popular and active than the Ulster Defence Army (UDA), with which it frequently clashed. The prominence of its long-imprisoned leader, Gusty Spence, in the announcement of the loyalist cease-fire in October 1994 has inflated its significance.

Michael Hopkinson

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