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Orange Volunteers
Participant in The Troubles
Optimized image 9408c968.png
Orange Volunteers logo.
The motto translates as "Fortune favours the bold"
Active July 1998 – present
Ideology Ulster loyalism,
Protestant fundamentalism,
Leaders Clifford Peeples (until 2001)
Area of
Northern Ireland
Strength thought to have 300 active members and enough weapons to maintain a ten-year campaign
Opponents Irish republicans, Irish nationalists,
Irish Catholics

Irish Political History series Ireland-up.png

Loyalist Flag (NI).svg

The Orange Volunteers (OV) are an Ulster loyalist and Protestant fundamentalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland.



The OV emerged during the 1998 Drumcree conflict when the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British Army prevented members of the Portadown Orange Order and their supporters from returning to the town centre down the Garvaghy road. However there is evidence to suggest that they had been actively recruiting and training members since as early as 1985[1]. The group is believed to be made up of dissident Loyalists who disapprove of the Northern Ireland peace process and also of the more militant members of the Orange Order[2], including former members of the Loyalist Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence Association. [3] David Ervine, at the time a leading member of the Progressive Unionist Party, described the group as little more than a gang of Protestant fundamentalists and drug-dealers.[4]


They are known for attacks on Catholic churches and businesses in Northern Ireland, in an attempt to prevent political settlements with nationalists. One of its first actions was a synchronised attack on 11 Catholic churches, justified by its then-leader, Clifford Peeples, because they were "bastions of the Antichrist." However Peeples denies being a bigot saying that he despises Roman Catholicism, but individual Catholics he likes and loves. Several pipe bomb attacks were attributed to them. It has been reported that they have enough guns and explosives to maintain a ten year campaign. It is thought the group can call on up to 300 Active members. The organisation has six battalions- one in each county - with a command structure based on the British Army.

Police crackdown

In a series of police raids aimed at dissident loyalists in Autumn 1999, eight arrests were made, weapons, pipe bombs and ammunition were recovered and a search of Stoneyford Orange Hall in County Antrim uncovered military files containing the personal details of over 300 republicans from South Armagh and Belfast.[5] Peeples and another loyalist were arrested by the RUC after their car was stopped on the outskirts of Dungannon and two hand grenades and a pipe bomb were discovered. In 2001 he was jailed for ten years for possession of the weapons. [6] He was released in 2004 and became the minister of a Pentecostal church on the Shankill Road in Belfast.[7] Four other members of the group were convicted of a range of terrorist offences, including possession of an automatic rifle, in December 2000. [8]

In a statement the OV declared that innocent Catholics had nothing to fear from them, and they will only go after legitimate targets. However, some of their attacks have contradicted this. Almost all of their attacks have been on innocent civilians and they have also targeted Sinn Féin members.

The group declared a ceasefire in 2000. In February 2001, the group called off its ceasefire with a "back to war" statement.

Subsequent activities

In November 2008 the Orange Volunteers said they were was responsible for an arson attack which destroyed a clubhouse at the Edendork St. Malachy's GAA club near Dungannon, County Tyrone, claiming it was in retaliation for recent attacks on Orange Halls. [9] Later that month, Sinn Fein claimed that the group was responsible was a pipe bomb planted near to the home of one of their councillors in Cookstown, County Tyrone. [10] In December 2008, Sinn Féin minister Conor Murphy claimed to have been told by the Police Service of Northern Ireland of a recent attempt on his life by the group in the Newry, Co. Down area. [11] Following the Massereene Barracks shooting in March 2009, the Orange Volunteers claimed responsibility for a pipe bomb which caused a security alert at a Sinn Féin office in Cookstown, County Tyrone.[12]

In July 2009 after many attacks on Orange Halls, the North and South East Antrim Orange Volunteers threatened further attacks if attacks on Orange Halls and other Protestant buildings did not stop.[13] In mid-August 2009 after more orange hall attacks [14] more Catholic and Nationalist owned buisnesses including an Ancient Order of Hibernians hall were attacked and had their windows broken. The Orange Volunteers claimed responsibility.[15]


  1. ^ Northern Ireland - The Troubles by Charles Messenger (ISBN 0-86124-236-X), p. 141.
  2. ^ Northern Ireland - The Troubles by Charles Messenger (ISBN 0-86124-236-X), p. 141.
  3. ^ "Orange Volunteers". CAIN Web Service (Conflict Archive on the Internet).  
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Sinn Féin collusion claim". BBC News. 4 November 1999.  
  6. ^ "Self-styled loyalist pastor jailed". BBC News. 8 March 2001.  
  7. ^ "Church row splits congregation". BBC News. 7 June 2005.  
  8. ^ "Students jailed on 'terrorism' charges". BBC News. 21 December 2000.  
  9. ^ "Loyalists torch GAA club ‘in revenge for Orange hall fires’". Belfast Telegraph. 10 November 2008.  
  10. ^ "Loyalists ‘targeted’ Sinn Féin". Irish News. 20 November 2008.  
  11. ^ "Minister told of loyalist threat". BBC News. 02 December 2008.  
  12. ^ "Orange Volunteers claim Burn Road pipe bomb responsibility". Mid Ulster Mail. 11 March 2009.  
  13. ^ "Orange Volunteers' threat condemned". Newsletter. 10 July 2009.  
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Call for Orange Volunteers to end attacks". Newsletter. 18 August 2009.  

External links

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