Paramilitaries in Parliament

DUP councillor and former Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Frank McCoubrey was a key political advisor to one of Northern Ireland’s worst paramilitary organisations

From 2002 to 2012, McCoubrey headed the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), an advisory body established to provide political analysis to the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

The UDA is a notorious Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary organisation believed to be responsible for the deaths of over 400 people, the majority of them Catholic.

Frank McCoubrey with DUP leader Arlene Foster (source)

Although the UDA declared ceasefires in 1994 and 2003, subsequent reports by Northern Ireland’s paramilitary watchdog, the Independent Monitoring Commission, found that the UDA continued to be involved in paramilitary activities, and that its members – including senior members – were involved in drug dealing, extortion, counterfeiting, money laundering and robbery.

Prior to his involvement with the UPRG, McCoubrey was a leading member of the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), a fringe political party established by the UDA in 1981.

In 2000 he was elected Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, working under the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) Sammy Wilson. Shortly after taking office, he sat on stage with armed paramilitaries at a loyalist rally organised by then-UDA leader Johnny “mad dog” Adair.


Facing calls for his resignation and censure, McCoubrey insisted that he “did not know masked men would appear,” but that if he “had known what was going to happen,” he “wouldn’t have been on that stage.”

The UDP disbanded in 2001, paving the way for the emergence of the UPRG in 2002. McCoubrey headed the UPRG from 2002 to 2012, when he left to join the DUP.

It’s not the only time the DUP has accepted former members of the UPRG or UDA.

Another leading member of the UPRG, Tommy Kirkham, was a DUP councillor from 1989 to 1993, and was later elected Deputy Lord Mayor of Newtownabbey with support from his former DUP colleagues.

Tommy Kirkham (source)

In 2014, the party selected ex-UDA prisoner Sam “Chalky” White as candidate to run in local government elections in Belfast. The former gunman was jailed for seven years in 1980 for robbing an east Belfast taxi office, and served his time on the UDA wing of the notorious Maze prison.

Last week it was announced that the DUP is in talks with the UK’s Conservative Party over plans to form a coalition government.

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