By Dr John Coulter (for the Blanket) The DUP has demanded a 'decontamination' period after the IRA disarms before it will share power with Sinn Fein. Nationalists may instead demand a decontamination period from the DUP, given Paisleyism's past links with unionist paramilitary groups.

The Paisleyite movement needs to be extra vigilant when it comes to demanding a so-called decontamination period from republicans concerning paramilitary activity as a few embarrassing skeletons could fall out of the political cupboard.

It might be better for diehard Paisleyite fundamentalists to keep quiet in case republicans begin quoting the Bible back at them - especially the New Testament text of St Matthew's Gospel Chapter 7 and verse 5: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote of thy brother's eye."

In practical terms, the nationalist community wants to hear Paisleyite fundamentalists give a cast-iron guarantee there will be no more Ulster Protestant Volunteers, Ulster Third Force, or Ulster Resistance Movement.

True, the DUP has been to the fore in condemning the sectarian violence against Catholic homes, schools and chapels in Ian Paisley's own political stomping ground of North Antrim. The DUP has also condemned the violence which has erupted as part of the present Ulster Volunteer Force/Loyalist Volunteer Force feud.

However, the bitter medicine which the DUP must swallow is it cannot demand a decontamination period from republicans if it is not first prepared to renounce past Paisleyite links with shadowy loyalist paramilitary organisations. Of course, the DUP will be quick to hammer any allegations it can be compared to Sinn Fein, which acts as the political wing of the IRA.

DUP politicians will be equally quick on the draw to assert the party is not the political front for any loyalist terror squad or paramilitary group. In this respect, the Paisleyites would do well to remember more words from Jesus in Matthew 7, this time in verse 2: "For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

Younger Paisleyite hotheads may need to be reminded of a group known as the Ulster Constitutional Defence Committee established in 1966 under the chairmanship of Ian Paisley. The Committee was formed the same year as Shankill Road loyalists revamped Lord Edward Carson's original Ulster Volunteer Force as a sectarian killing squad.

However, the UCDC was closely linked to another loyalist extremist group, the Ulster Protestant Volunteers. Indeed, in June 1966, Paisley in a speech in Holywood, Co Down, emphasised the UCDC had absolutely no connection with the UVF, which had just been proscribed.

In spite of this public denial, there were allegations the UVF and UPV enjoyed a close working relationship. The UPV was always equally closely associated with Paisley's UCDC, and UPV members accompanied most of Paisley's parades during the early civil rights period in the late 1960s a few years before he formed the DUP.

The UPV members were regarded as staunch supporters of Paisleyism. Organised in local divisions, the UPV styled itself as "a united Society of Protestant patriots, pledged by all lawful methods to uphold and maintain the constitution of Northern Ireland so long as the United Kingdom maintains a Protestant monarchy and the terms of the Revolution settlement".

The UPV tended to operate as a paramilitary escort for UCDC-organised parades in much the same way as another loyalist paramilitary group, the Vanguard Service Corps - later the Ulster Volunteer Service Corps - provided escorts for speakers from the Hard Right Vanguard Unionist movement in the early 1970s.

These groups should not be confused with another loyalist vigilante organisation established in 1977 with the support of the United Unionist Action Council and known as the Ulster Service Corps.

In the spring of '77, it mounted occasional road blocks in South Derry, Armagh and Tyrone, claiming to have some liaison with RUC and Ulster Defence Regiment members, although this was denied by the authorities.

Claiming to have a membership of about 500, this USC's activities included observation of alleged IRA 'safe houses'. Most of its original members were believed to have served with the RUC's B Specials, which were disbanded in 1970.


However, it was the emergence and existence of groups such as the Ulster Service Corps which fuelled the collusion allegations in the nationalist community between loyalist extremists and the security forces.

Likewise, nationalists will also remember the late night parades of the Third Force, a DUP-sponsored vigilante organisation established in late 1981. It made appearances at several rallies addressed by Paisley and claimed its existence reduced the number of murders of Protestants in border areas.

The formation of the Third Force had been preceded by a show of strength in the Antrim hills at which around 500 Paisley supporters waved their firearms certificates to assembled journalists. Whilst branded as a stunt for the May 1981 local government elections, the incident nevertheless raised the issue of the number of legal guns held by Northern Protestants.

It was organised on a county basis and a strength of 15,000 to 20,000 was mentioned, however, its launch was accompanied by warnings from the authorities that private armies would not be tolerated. The Third Force largely disappeared after the formation of the 1982 Northern Assembly.

More sinister developments were to be orchestrated by the Paisleyites in November 1986 when the Ulster Resistance movement - famous for its red berets - was launched at an invitation-only rally in Belfast's Ulster Hall. The event was attended by Paisley and his deputy Peter Robinson. At one time, the Resistance was said to have comprised nine battalions.

However, the DUP was left with massive political egg on its face following a major arms find in Co Armagh in November 1988 which included weapons similar to those seized earlier from the UDA at Portadown and the UVF in Belfast. It has prompted much speculation as to the location of the Paisley-supporting Resistance arms cache.

DUP embarrassment was deepened with the arrest of a former DUP council candidate which brought the Resistance and its DUP links under even closer scrutiny. The Paisleyite knee- jerk reaction was a statement saying party associations and contacts had been ended with the Resistance.

But there were further 'red faces' for the DUP when three men were arrested in France under suspicion they were seeking to obtain guns from South Africa for the Resistance in return for selling missile technology.

It is somewhat ironic that hardline unionists are calling for the republican Colombia Three to be returned for trial, yet loyalists mounted a campaign calling the release of the Resistance-linked Paris Three. In 1991, Ulster Resistance was mentioned as one of the organisations, along with the UVF and UFF, in the Combined Loyalist Military Command which announced the loyalist ceasefire in October 1994.

All this loyalist paramilitary 'contamination' seems to have been forgotten by the modern DUP calling vehemently for the 'decontamination' of the republican movement.

Its no use pumping out the empty rhetoric that the UPV, Third Force, and the Resistance are now defunct. What we need is a definitive statement from the Paisley camp that these organisations have 'dumped arms' and any arsenals - no matter how old - will be verifably decommissioned.

Given this clear historical link between Paisleyism as a unionist ideology and organisation, and loyalist paramilitaries, nationalism and republicanism could justly state the time has now come for the DUP to be put into political quarantine and face its own decontamination period.

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