Republicans' secret Tyrone meeting with loyalists halted UVF gang's murder spree

UDR members on patrol
Connla Young

A deadly UVF gang thought to include several members of the UDR called a halt to its campaign following a secret Troubles meeting with republicans.

Sources say the Mid Ulster-based group decided to end its activities after a member was killed by the IRA in the early 1990s.

A relative requested a meeting with republicans through a Protestant clergyman and told them they would stop their killing.

The UVF men are suspected of involvement in the murder of several Catholics in the Mid-Ulster area during the late 1980s and early '90s.

It is believed the republican representatives gave no assurances or made any deals at the meeting, which was being monitored at a distance by other republicans.

It is understood the meeting took place at a hotel car park near Dungannon.

However, informed sources say that after the meeting there was noticeable decrease in the activity of the loyalist gang.

The UVF unit, whose members were based in a rural part of Mid-Ulster, was one of two operating in the area at the time.

Several of those involved are believed to have been members of the UDR.

While some members of the gang eventually ended their activities it is understood that other UVF cells in the area continued to target Catholics.

The gang is believed to have been formed after the IRA shot dead UDR man Raymond McNicol (30) near Cookstown in 1988.

UDR man Raymond McNicol was killed by the IRA in 1988 near Cookstown in Co Tyrone

Some believe that many of the UVF attacks carried out in the area were selected with symbolic impact.

The getaway car used by gunmen after they murdered Catholic man Tommy Casey near Cookstown in 1990 was found abandoned close to where Mr McNicol was killed in 1988.

UDR man Raymond McNicol was driving to work when he was shot dead by the IRA

Former republican prisoner Sean Anderson, who is believed to have been the intended target of the attack, was shot dead almost a year to the day after Mr Casey.

After the McNicol shooting two men were arrested at a house and questioned for three days before being released.

The man who owned the house was later targeted twice by loyalists but escaped with his life.

Another man was also shot and injured in January 1989.

He later claimed that members of the UDR were involved.

During the late 1980s and early '90s the UVF carried out a series of high-profile attacks across Tyrone and Armagh including the murder of senior IRA man Liam Ryan at the Battery Bar, Moortown in November 1989.

The IRA was also very active in the area, targeting both suspected loyalists and security force members.

Many of the murders carried out by loyalists in Mid-Ulster around this time involved weapons smuggled into the north by British agent Brian Nelson.

It is believed by some that these weapons made their way to the UVF via Ulster Resistance, which received a share of the Nelson weapons haul.

It is understood that while members of the UDR remained active within the UVF they later came under the direction of former commander Billy Wright when he formed the LVF.

Wright, believed by some to have been a British agent, was shot dead by the INLA in the Maze prison in 1998.

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