Tommy English (loyalist)

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Tommy English Tommy English UDA.jpg
Tommy English

Thomas English (1960 – 31 October 2000), usually known as Tommy English, was an Ulster loyalist paramilitary and politician. He served as a commander in the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and was killed by members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) as part of a violent loyalist feud between the two organisations. English had also been noted as a leading figure in the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) during the early years of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Paramilitary Militarised force or other organization

A paramilitary is a semi-militarized force whose organizational structure, tactics, training, subculture, and (often) function are similar to those of a professional military, but which is formally not part of a government's armed forces.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

Ulster Defence Association Paramilitary and vigilante group

The Ulster Defence Association is the largest Ulster loyalist paramilitary and vigilante group in Northern Ireland. It was formed in September 1971 and undertook an armed campaign of almost twenty four years as one of the participants of the Troubles. Its declared goal was to defend Ulster Protestant loyalist areas and to combat Irish republicanism, particularly the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). In the 1970s, uniformed UDA members openly patrolled these areas armed with batons and held large marches and rallies. Within the UDA was a group tasked with launching paramilitary attacks; it used the cover name Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) so that the UDA would not be outlawed. The British government outlawed the "UFF" in November 1973, but the UDA itself was not proscribed as a terrorist group until August 1992.


Ulster Defence Association

From an early age, English was involved in the North Belfast Brigade of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group. After his death, the Belfast Telegraph described him as a "UDA commander", [1] while the BBC described him as a "paramilitary chief". [2]

<i>Belfast Telegraph</i> daily newspaper

The Belfast Telegraph is a daily newspaper published in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Independent News & Media. Despite its unionist tradition, today the paper has a significant readership both among protestants and catholics.

English also became involved in the political wing of the movement, the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), becoming its chairman. [3] He stood for the UDP in North Belfast in the 1996 Northern Ireland Forum election, and was also placed eighth on the party's top-up list, but he was not elected. [4] [5] He was active on behalf of the party in the discussions which led to the Good Friday Agreement. [6] A noted critic of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) during his political career, English gained notoriety for an appearance at a UDA rally in the Ulster Hall in Belfast when he took to the stage wearing an Ian Paisley mask and a clerical dog collar and proceeded to lampoon the DUP leader. [7] He was a regular visitor to conferences and events at the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation and was close to Republic of Ireland peace activists Paul Burton and Chris Hudson, visiting the site of the Battle of the Somme with them in 1999. [7] On St Patrick's Day 1998 he met President of the USA Bill Clinton in Washington DC as part of the UDP delegation visiting the US capital. [8] He hit the headlines in 1997 when he was given a bravery award after breaking down the front door of a burning house and bringing the occupier out to safety. [8]

Ulster Democratic Party political party in Northern Ireland

The Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) was a small loyalist political party in Northern Ireland. It was established in June 1981 as the Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), to replace the New Ulster Political Research Group. The UDP name had previously been used in the 1930s by an unrelated party, which on one occasion contested Belfast Central.

Northern Ireland Forum Provisional forum for the N. Ireland peace process

The Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue was a body set up in 1996 as part of a process of negotiations that eventually led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) or Belfast Agreement was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s. Northern Ireland's present devolved system of government is based on the agreement. The agreement also created a number of institutions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Alongside his political activism he remained involved in the paramilitary side of the UDA and played a leading role in orchestrating riots at two interface areas in north Belfast i.e. the Limestone Road - which divides Catholic Newington and Protestant Tigers Bay - and the Whitewell Road. [7] English and his family lived in Tiger's Bay before moving to Newtownabbey at an unspecified period so as to "give our kids a chance so they could have a decent life" according to his wife Doreen. [8]

The Antrim Road is a major arterial route and area of housing and commerce that runs from inner city north Belfast to Dunadry, passing through Newtownabbey and Templepatrick. It forms part of the A6 road, a traffic route which links Belfast to Derry. It passes through the New Lodge, Newington and Glengormley areas of Northern Ireland amongst others.

Shore Road, Belfast road in Northern Ireland

The Shore Road is a major arterial route and area of housing and commerce that runs through north Belfast and Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland. It forms part of the A2 road, a traffic route which links Belfast to the County Antrim coast.

Whitewell Road

The Whitewell Road is an interface area in north Belfast and Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, and historically the site of occasional clashes between nationalists and loyalists. The Whitewell Road and the surrounding area is a residential community in the Greencastle parish. The Whitewell area is considered a working class area. For much of its length the Whitwell Road runs parallel to the M2 and also provides a direct link between the A2 and the A6.

English left the UDP in 1998 after making a public statement against the Orange Order at a time when the party was widely supporting them in their attempts to march in Catholic areas. [8] English also claimed that he had been the subject of allegations about misappropriating money in the UDA and stated that, whilst the allegations were not widely believed by the group's leadership, worries about them had led him to attempt suicide and seek treatment in a psychiatric hospital. [8]

Orange Order Protestant fraternal organisation

The Loyal Orange Institution, more commonly known as the Orange Order, is a Protestant fraternal order based primarily in Northern Ireland. It also has lodges in the Republic of Ireland, a Grand Orange Lodge in the Scottish Lowlands and other lodges throughout the Commonwealth, as well as in the United States and Togo. The Orange Order was founded in County Armagh in 1795, during a period of Protestant–Catholic sectarian conflict, as a Masonic-style fraternity sworn to maintain the Protestant Ascendancy. It is headed by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, which was established in 1798. Its name is a tribute to the Dutch-born Protestant king William of Orange, who defeated the army of Catholic king James II in the Williamite–Jacobite War (1688–1691). Its members wear orange sashes and are referred to as Orangemen. The order is best known for its yearly marches, the biggest of which are held on or around 12 July.

In 1999, he was arrested on suspicion of headbutting and kicking a patron of the Crows Nest bar, having allegedly arrived with three associates armed with baseball bats, breaking glasses along the bar. [6] The case was still outstanding, with English awaiting charges, at the time of his death. [8]


UDA South East Antrim Brigade mural close to English's home in Ballyduff Ballyduff UFF.png
UDA South East Antrim Brigade mural close to English's home in Ballyduff

On 31 October 2000, English was fatally shot at his home in Ballyfore Gardens, on the Ballyduff estate in Newtownabbey, by a group of four men. His three children were inside the house at about 18.30 when the men entered through the back door as his wife, Doreen was preparing food for a Halloween party. She called out to her husband and attempted to close the door but they pushed past her, one of the men shouting "Get out of the fucking way, Doreen". She kept trying to intervene in an effort to protect English, but she received several hard blows, mostly in the head, and her skull was fractured. English was shot several times as he lay face down in the hallway of his home; the last shot struck him in the lower back. He was rushed to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital where he died shortly afterwards. [9]

The murder was blamed on the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), who at the time were involved in a violent dispute with the UDA. [10] At his funeral, his coffin was covered in UDA flags, and it was accompanied by men in paramilitary uniforms. [11] Among the mourners was a member of the UVF who was closely related to English. [8] Sympathy notices placed in the local press at the time included one from Johnny Adair, who described English as a "good and faithful servant". [8]

English's murder was said to have been in retaliation for the killing of UVF veteran Bertie Rice earlier that same day. [12] The UDA killed Mark Quail, a 26-year-old UVF member, at his Rathcoole home in retaliation on the following day, with Quail the seventh and final man killed as part of the loyalist feud. [12] David "Candy" Greer, a UDA member killed in the feud three days before English, had been a close friend from English's days in Tiger's Bay. [8] English was initially described in press reports as a relative of UDP colleague and former South East Antrim brigadier Joe English although this was later corrected as the two were not related. [13]

Ten men were put on trial for the murder of English, including UVF North Belfast commander Mark Haddock. However, nine were acquitted of all charges, while the tenth was convicted only of "possessing items intended for terrorism". [14] Following the acquittals, his widow announced that she would be suing police for failing to take action against an informant who was involved in a number of UVF murders in north Belfast. [15]

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  1. "Boxer ‘volunteered to shoot UDA boss’", Belfast Telegraph , 10 September 2009
  2. "UDA boss Tommy English murder accused to be prosecuted", BBC News , 3 March 2010
  3. David Sharrock, "Two killed in revenge raids by loyalists", Daily Telegraph , 1 November 2000
  4. "1996 Forum Elections: Candidates in North Belfast", Northern Ireland Elections
  5. "1996 Elections - List of Candidates", Northern Ireland Elections
  6. 1 2 "Former UDP talks delegate bailed", BBC News , 5 November 1999
  7. 1 2 3 Henry McDonald & Jim Cusack, UDA - Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror, Penguin Ireland, 2004, p. 335
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 David McKittrick et al, Lost Lives, Mainstream Publishing, 2008, p. 1486
  9. "Wife tells of husband's murder", 26 March 2003
  10. "Killing linked to loyalist feud", BBC News , 2 November 2000
  11. "Paramilitary funeral for murdered loyalist", BBC News , 4 November 2000
  12. 1 2 David Lister & Hugh Jordan, Mad Dog: The Rise and Fall of Johnny Adair and C Company, Mainstream Press, 2004, p. 295
  13. Joe English no relation to Tommy English.(News)
  14. "Nine men cleared of murdering UDA man Tommy English", BBC News , 22 February 2012
  15. "Tommy English family suing police", BBC News , 21 May 2012