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Gary McMichael (born 1969) is the son of former Ulster Defence Association leader John McMichael and was the leader of the now defunct Ulster Democratic Party during the peace process.

McMichael became involved with the Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party at an early age and, following his father’s death in 1987, became a close ally of Ray Smallwoods, serving his political apprenticeship under the UDP chairman. Following the murder of Smallwoods in 1994, McMichael, by then seen as Smallwoods’ deputy, was the obvious choice to succeed to the leadership and continue his father’s stated aim of building a strong political arm to the UDA.

As leader of the UDP, McMichael became attached to the Combined Loyalist Military Command, and played a leading role in convincing the CLMC to call a ceasefire in October 1994. McMichael became a high profile figure due to his involvement in the peace process and he led the UDP into the Forum in 1996 from which the Belfast Agreement emerged. McMichael became an enthusiastic advocate of the Agreement, although his views were not always shared by the UDA membership as a whole and the party failed to win any seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly (McMichael himself stood in Lagan Valley and failed to capture one of the six seats by a narrow margin).

Although still a local councillor McMichael's influence began to wane after the failure of 1998 and with the movement of Johnny Adair towards the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the resulting loyalist feud, he became an increasingly peripheral figure along with the UDP as a whole. He entered virtual political retirement, concentrating instead on writing a column for Ireland on Sunday and publishing his autobiography, An Ulster Voice, in 1999. He did emerge briefly for negotiations with David Ervine aimed at ending the feuds, although these came to nothing. He was appointed to the Civic Forum for Northern Ireland, but McMichael's career in politics was effectively ended by the collapse of the UDP in 2001. He did not join the Ulster Political Research Group, declined to defend his seat on Lisburn City Council in 2005, and is no longer involved in Northern Irish politics.

In 1998 McMichael started a Lisburn based Community Organisation, ASCERT - Action on Substances through Community Education and Related Training, aimed at addressing the drug and alcohol issues in the local communities. Working with communities across the Eastern Health Board area ASCERT built a strong reputation as a leader in the delivery of drug and alcohol training programmes. On retiring from politics Gary McMichael became the full time Director of ASCERT and has nurtured the organisation into the forefront of drug and alcohol training, education, support and youth treatment work in Northern Ireland today.

Political offices
Preceded by
Ray Smallwoods
Leader of the Ulster Democratic Party
1994 - 2001
Succeeded by
Party disbanded

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