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The Red Hand Commando[1] is a loyalist paramilitary group closely linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force in Northern Ireland.

The RHC was formed in 1972 in the Shankill area of west Belfast by John McKeague (who was also involved with Tara). Membership was strong in the Sandy Row and Shankill Road areas of Belfast, as well as east Belfast and parts of county Down. In 1972 the RHC agreed to become an integral part of the UVF. It retained its own structures but in 'operational' matters agreed to take its lead from the UVF and share arms and personnel.[2] The group was declared illegal in 1973.

The RHC was part of the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC). The Loyalist Retaliation and Defence Group (LRDG) was believed to be associated with the RHC. The UVF and Red Hand Commando supported the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and maintained a ceasefire from 1994 until (arguably) 2005.[3]Galway-Jackson argues that the RHC declares its ceasefire remained intact from 1994 until full and final decommissioning in 2009.[4]. On May 3, 2007, along with the UVF, the Red Hand Commando declared it was renouncing violence and ceased to exist as a paramilitary organisation. The organisation stated that it would retain its weapons but put them "beyond reach" and "under the control of the UVF leadership, but not accessible for use by members". The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning stated this was not acceptable.[5]

According to the Sutton database of deaths at the University of Ulster's CAIN project, the RHC has killed 13 people, including 12 civilians and one of its own members.[6]

In June of 2009, a male official representative of the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando groups stated that the two paramilitary groups had finally formally decommissioned their arms in front of independent witnesses to honour their dialogue with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and the 1998 accords with the United Kingdom and Ireland.

See also


  • Gusty Spence (Roy Garland, 2001), ISBN 0-85640-698-8.


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