Volunteer (Ulster loyalist)

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Volunteer, abbreviated Vol., is a title used by a number of Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisations to describe their members.

History of the term volunteer in Ireland

In Ireland, the term was used in the 18th century for members of local defence forces formed by the British government in anticipation of continental threats – such as Jacobite risings (1715 and 1745) and French invasions (1757 and 1760).[1] The term "Ulster volunteers" goes back to 1803 when mention is made of the "Ulster volunteers of 1760".[2][3]

The Irish Rifle Volunteer Corps was established in London in 1859, and later became the London Irish Rifles. In 1860, in response to the Volunteer Force movement in the rest of the United Kingdom, the short-lived Royal Irish Rifle Volunteers was established in Dublin.

The 1,400 Irish Catholics who enlisted with the Papal Army in 1860, to defend the Papal States during the Unification of Italy, are cited as being volunteers.[4][5][6]

In 1913, the Ulster Volunteers (Ulster Volunteer Force, UVF) were formed to resist Irish Home Rule. In response and in part inspired by the formation of the UVF, Irish nationalists founded the Irish Volunteers (Irish Volunteer Force) to defend Home Rule.[7][8][9]

In September 1914, there was a split in the Irish Volunteers and most of its 160,000 members became part of the National Volunteers.[10] with 12,000 members led by Eoin MacNeill,[11] The remainder became the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The IRA and descended groups see themselves as the continuation of these Irish Volunteers and use the term "volunteer" to describe their members.

Modern usage in loyalism

The term is used by the modern Ulster Volunteer Force,[12][13] formed in 1966, who see themselves as the direct continuation of the original Ulster Volunteers. It is also used by its youth wing, the Young Citizen Volunteers. Likewise, the Ulster Defence Association[14] and Red Hand Commando[15] refer to their members as volunteers. It is also found in the names of similar paramilitary groups like the Loyalist Volunteer Force, Orange Volunteers and now-defunct Ulster Protestant Volunteers.

See also


  1. Padraig O Snodaigh; THE IRISH VOLUNTEERS 1715–1793 – A list of the units, pg 88. Irish Academic Press, Dublin.
  2. F. J. B.; Ulster Volunteers in 1760, Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Second Series, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Oct. 1902).
  3. Google Books – Collectanea Politica
  4. Google Books – England against the papacy, 1858–1861
  5. The Wild Geese – The Pope's Irish Battalion
  6. Freepages – Nineteenth Century Sources
  7. Jackson, Alvin; Home Rule – An Irish History 1800–2000, page 120. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003. ISBN 1-84212-724-1. Quote: The UVF was a direct inspiration for the Irish Volunteers, formed in November 1913 by those on the nationalist side who feared that Home Rule had stalled.
  8. English, Richard: Irish Freedom – The History of Nationalism in Ireland, page 252. MacMillan, 2006. ISBN 1-4050-4189-7. Quote: Ironically, indeed, the UVF mobilization was welcomed by some Irish nationalists as showing the appropriate paramilitary way forward. Scholar-nationalist Eoin McNeill (...) also played a significant part in the founding of the Irish Volunteers, a nationalist militia established in Dublin in November 1913 in defence of the Home Rule struggle. To some degree prompted by and modelled on the Ulster Volunteers, these Irish Volunteers exemplified a trend which was frequently enough to be evident in the history of nationalist Ireland: that of one ethno-national gesture of aggression kick-starting organized paramilitarism on the other side (a similar pattern was to be evident, for example, in 1960s Northern Ireland)
  9. Jackson, Alvin; Home Rule – An Irish History 1800–2000, page 134-135. ISBN 1-84212-724-1. Quote: But Larne and the Ulster Volunteers had a further military significance, as an example for militant nationalism... The institutional expression of these militant fears came with the establishment, in November 1913, of the Irish Volunteers, a citizen militia modelled loosely on its Unionist counterpart in the north
  10. Connolly, J.S.; Oxford Companion to Irish History, page 402-3. Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-923483-7
  11. Jackson, Alvin; Home Rule – An Irish History 1800–2000, page 152. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003. ISBN 1-84212-724-1.
  12. Physical memorials of The Troubles in east Belfast — Long, Cordner, Seymour and Bennett – UVF CAIN.
  13. UVF announces end to terror campaign "We encourage our Volunteers to embrace the challenges which continue to face their communities and support their continued participation in non-military capacities." Daily Mail.
  14. Physical memorials of The Troubles in east Belfast — UDA, 4th Battalion Castlereagh, East Belfast Brigade CAIN.
  15. Physical memorials of The Troubles in south Belfast — Hanna, McCrea and Mehaffy – UVF/RHC CAIN.