1980-1989 | Backing terror operations | Northern Ireland

The UK’s refusal to proscribe the UDA terror organisation ridiculed

UDA mural in Shankil, Belfast –
E Asterion – CC BY-SA 2.5 – via Wikimedia.

19 December 1980

On 19 December 1980, an article appeared in the New York Daily News, based on a telephone conversation with Sam Duddy, the press relations officer of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the largest Loyalist paramilitary organization in Northern Ireland. The journalist, Michael Daly, expressed his astonishment that it was possible to find the UDA listed in the telephone directory, despite the fact that the organization had, according to his own estimate, ‘slaughtered some 500 Roman Catholics.’

Unlike the IRA, which had long been designated an illegal terror organization, the British government had for years refused the many demands to proscribe the UDA.  This led to the absurd situation where, in Daly’s words, ‘the UDA is the only terrorist organisation in Europe listed in a telephone book,’ and whereas the British army was engaged in an all out war with the IRA, the only operations it was conducting against the UDA ‘had been limited to soccer matches between paratroopers and UDA gunmen.’  When Daly had asked Duddy whether he thought the British army might take any action against the UDA, Duddy had responded: ‘I would like to think the security forces know who their friends are. They know where they can get a cup of tea.’1


  1. Margaret Urwin, A State in Denial: British Collaboration with Loyalist Paramilitaries, Mercier Press, Cork 2016, pp. 211-212.

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