Red Hand Commando killed 13 people during the Troubles

A Red Hand Commando memorial plaque in the Kilcooley estate in Bangor, Co Down. File picture by Mal McCann

THE Red Hand Commando were a small, secretive loyalist paramilitary group closely linked to the UVF.

Formed in 1972, the group was responsible for 13 murders, including that of Catholic ex-soldier Bernard Rice in north Belfast in 1972.

Red Hand Commando's (RHC) support was centred in east Belfast, the Sandy Row area of south Belfast, Newtownabbey and parts of Co Down.

The group was established by prominent loyalist John McKeague, who, shortly before he was killed by the INLA in 1982, was interviewed by police over the Kincora sex abuse scandal.

RHC's co-founder was another prominent loyalist William 'Plum' Smith, later a member of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP).

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The group was behind several brutal murders, mainly in the 1970s.

Co-ordinated gun and bomb attacks on two pubs in Dundalk, Co Louth, and near Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, on December 19 1975 led to the deaths of five people, including Englishman Trevor Brecknell.

In 1976, RHC and the UFF claimed responsibility for the murder of former Sinn Féin vice-president Máire Drumm.

Ms Drumm was killed in the Mater Hospital in north Belfast, where she was recovering following an eye operation.

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