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The Ulster Political Research Group is an advisory body connected to the Ulster Defence Association, providing advice to them on political matters. The group is largely a successor to the Ulster Democratic Party, which dissolved in 2001, and was permanently founded in January 2002.



The group had its origins in the earlier New Ulster Political Research Group (NUPRG), which fielded three candidates in the 1981 local elections, with one of them holding the seat that he had won in a 1980 by-election. The group was sympathetic to Ulster nationalism drawing on plans produced in 1976 by the Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee. The NUPRG's Ulster nationalist blueprint, Beyond the Religious Divide, has been recently republished with a new introduction. The NUPRG were disbanded in 1981 and replaced with the Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party, although the Ulster Political Research Group was later reconvened for policy-making purposes from time to time.

Leading members

Ex-UDP members Frank McCoubrey, David Nicholl and Tommy Kirkham reformed the Ulster Political Research Group, following the disbandment of the UDP. McCoubrey is a member of Belfast City Council ostensibly as an independent (and was formerly deputy Lord Mayor of the city), with other leading members including Sammy Duddy and Frankie Gallagher. Kirkham (a member of Newtownabbey Borough Council) is also registered as the leader of the Ulster Protestant League, a title he has never used in elections.[1]

2006 split

In October 2006, the South East Antrim Brigade of the UDA announced it would no longer give its support to the UPRG, but would henceforth align itself with a new body named Beyond Conflict[2], founded by Kirkham. Several hours after this announcement, Beyond Conflict stated that it could take eight million pounds of British Government money and five years before the South East Antrim Brigade would cease all terrorist activity.[3] Kirkham's role within the UPRG is in doubt after he was expelled from the UDA for his role in this loyalist feud.[4]

2007 funding row

In March 2007 the British government announced plans to give £1 million to a Farset Youth and Community Development project designed to move the UDA away from paramilitarism.[5] The announcement followed an initiative by the UPRG to consult with UDA activists, culminating in the publication of a business plan to facilitate a Conflict Transformation Initiative.[6] The move was Supported by Chief Constable Hugh Orde who was seen to shake hands with Jackie McDonald a senior loyalist believed to be the UDA's leading figure in the south of the city. In direct contrast to the statement by leading Police Service of Northern Ireland officer Det Supt Esmond Adair, who claimed that the UDA was still heavily involved in extortion.[7] Orde was to later criticise the UDA following the shooting of a police officer in Castlmara by dissident elements associated with Kirkhams South East Antrim led Beyond Conflict Group. Further Disturbances took place in Bangor, were again members of the UDA East Belfast group represented by Frankie Gallagher were said to fire shots at the police during a police raid against criminals living in Killcooley Estate.

This led Margaret Ritchie Minister for Social Development to say that she would pull the plug on the £1.2m project run by Farset, if the UDA did not begin to decommission in 60 days. She further called on the group to begin a meaningful dialogue with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, led by General John de Chastelain. The group is responsible for over seeing decommissioning. The decommissioning argument has been publicly refuted by McDonald as not being on the radar. This is the position of the UDA leadership as a whole, and what the group has said in presentations to the Government and to the IIDC. It is believed that the position is held because of the existing use of arms by other groups such as the Ulster Volunteer Force who said that they had put arms beyond reach. Additionally the UDA see the existence of the Irish National Liberation Army, Continuity IRA, Real IRA, Loyalist Volunteer Force and the break away South East Antrim Brigade as real rather than imaginary threats which the new Stormont Executive and the Police have yet to effectively deal with.


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