The Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) is a loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland which broke away from the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and was led by Billy Wright. It is outlawed as a terrorist organisation in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The United States has designated it a terrorist organisation also.
Break with the UVF
Billy Wright had been the leader of the mid-Ulster brigade of the UVF. Internal differences between Wright and the UVF's brigade staff in Belfast came to a head in July 1996 during the Drumcree
dispute. The body of a Roman Catholic taxi driver, Michael McGoldrick, a recent university graduate, was found dumped a few miles from Lurgan
. Although no grouping claimed the murder, it was alleged it was Wright's men. Consequently the mid-Ulster unit was stood down by the UVF leadership, as it had breached the ceasefire the organisation had been observing while its representatives were in negotiations on the Belfast Agreement
Wright then took most of the unit's members with him and set up the LVF. Wright (who had previously been a lay preacher) is believed to have exerted a strong moral force among LVF members, for example, banning pornography in the LVF wing of the HMP Maze prison.
Although believed to be behind many atrocities in the mid-Ulster area—centred on the Lurgan/Portadown area, including many attacks on civilians, Wright was finally charged with menacing behaviour and sentenced to eight years at the Maze prison. There he demanded a separate wing for the LVF prisoners. The authorities agreed and the wing became a gathering point for various dissident shades of loyalist paramilitaries, including many from Belfast and north Down.
Death of Billy Wright
Wright was murdered on 27 December
in an attack by members of the Irish National Liberation Army
(INLA) housed in an adjacent wing of the prison.
As Wright sat in a van waiting to be taken for a visit, three men scaled a number of roofs in the prison before running across a courtyard and shooting Wright dead.
The INLA claimed that the killing was in reprisal for Wright's sectarianism: neither of the two other LVF men in the prison van, one of whom was on remand for beating to death a Catholic teenager, was harmed.
That night, LVF gunmen killed a pub doorman in Tyrone who prevented a massacre by physically blocking their entrance to a pub. Unbeknownst to the killers, the man had once been in the IRA.
In March 1998, during the negotiations for the Good Friday Agreement
, the LVF issued a statement expressing support for the stance of the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party
, saying the party's leader, Ian Paisley
, had got it "absolutely right". Members of the DUP - including prominent member of parliament Rev. William McCrea
- have appeared on public platforms with LVF leaders, including Billy Wright.
In May 1998 it called a cease-fire and urged people to vote No in the referendum. The NIO accepted its cease-fire in November making its prisoners eligible for the early release scheme under the Belfast Agreement. Later, it handed over a small amount of weapons to the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. The weapons; four sub-machine guns, two rifles, two pistols, a sawn-off shotgun, 348 rounds of ball ammunition, 31 shotgun shells, five electrical detonators, two pipe bombs, two weapons stocks and five assorted magazines, were destroyed and recorded via video.
Wright's successor as LVF leader, Mark Fulton, was found hanged in Maghaberry prison in 2002. He is believed to have committed suicide.
The LVF is the only paramilitary group in Ireland to have killed a journalist, Martin O'Hagan
, who was exposing their involvement in the heroin trade. The Secretary of State was moved to declare on 12 October
that the government no longer recognised their ceasefire. Despite its self-proclaimed war on Irish republicanism
, the LVF has killed only civilians and fellow loyalist paramilitaries, with the exception of the former IRA
member mentioned above, according to Malcolm Sutton's tabulations.
Despite its ideology, the organisation in Belfast
has strong ties with Catholic gangsters and drug dealers.
Following a particularly bloody feud with the UVF in the summer of 2005, and loyalist violence in Belfast city that September, the LVF announced in October 2005 that it was standing down following the IRA's previous standing down and disarmament In February 2006, the Independent Monitoring Commission confirmed that the feud with the UVF was over, but said that the LVF's involvement with organized crime and drug trafficking continued, describing it as a "deeply criminal organization".
Chris Anderson wrote a biography of Billy Wright entitled "The Billy Boy - The Life And Death Of LVF Leader Billy Wright" (ISBN 1-84018-639-9)
The British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
, Paul Murphy
, announced a public inquiry into the murder of Billy Wright in November 2004, following a report on the shooting by retired Canadian
Judge, Peter Cory
. He was appointed by the British and Irish governments to investigate killings involving allegations of collusion by the security forces with paramilitaries on both sides of the Irish border. Judge Cory recommended independent inquiries into the killings of Rosemary Nelson
, Robert Hamill
, Pat Finucane
and Billy Wright in Northern Ireland. Judge Cory also recommended an inquiry in the Republic of Ireland
into the murders of Superintendent Bob Buchanan and Chief Superintendent Harry Breen in 1989.