Ragged Justice: Loyalist Vigilantism in Northern Ireland

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Loyalist paramilitaries have been carrying out vigilante attacks since the earliest years of the Troubles. In four of the past six years, they have actually carried out more vigilante attacks than republican paramilitaries. Yet despite this history, virtually nothing has been written about this aspect of paramilitarism in Northern Ireland. This article explores the origins and growth of loyalist vigilantism. The impact of pivotal events such as the 1985 Anglo‐Irish Agreement and the 1994 cease‐fires are discussed. The vigilantism clearly fulfils a number of important functions for the loyalists but it also carries heavy costs. The article examines how the political parties associated with the paramilitaries have struggled to accommodate the vigilante campaigns while attempting to build wider political appeal. The article concludes that despite the political costs, current developments in Northern Ireland appear to favour an intensification rather than a diminution of loyalist vigilantism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages32
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • vigilantism
  • terrorism
  • loyalist paramilitaries
  • Northern Ireland
  • Northern Ireland Troubles
  • Troubles
  • Ulster Defence Association
  • Ulster Volunteer Force

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