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Hugh Ross (politician)

Hugh Ross (politician)

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Hugh Ross is a Presbyterian
Presbyterianism
Presbyterianism refers to a number of Christian churches adhering to the Calvinist theological tradition within Protestantism, which are organized according to a characteristic Presbyterian polity. Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures,...

 minister and member of the Orange Order
Orange Institution
The Orange Institution is a Protestant fraternal organisation based mainly in Northern Ireland and Scotland, though it has lodges throughout the Commonwealth and United States. The Institution was founded in 1796 near the village of Loughgall in County Armagh, Ireland...

, who was previously the leader of the now defunct Ulster Independence Movement
Ulster Independence Movement
The Ulster Independence Movement was an Ulster nationalist political party founded on 17 November 1988. The group emerged from the Ulster Clubs, after a series of 15 public meetings across Northern Ireland...

 (UIM).

UIM leadership


Ross began his political involvement with the Ulster Clubs
Ulster Clubs
The Ulster Clubs was the name given to a network of unionist organisations founded in Northern Ireland in November 1985. Emerging from an earlier group based in Portadown the Ulster Clubs briefly mobilised wide support across Northern Ireland and sought to co-ordinate opposition to the development...

 which emerged in the 1980s to galvanize opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement
Anglo-Irish Agreement
The Anglo-Irish Agreement was an agreement between the United Kingdom and Ireland which aimed to help bring an end to the Troubles in Northern Ireland...

 and appeared on the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

's local news programme in August 1986 to launch an attack on cross-border co-operation. Eventually the UIM developed out of this group and Ross became leader of the main avowedly Ulster nationalist organisation in Northern Ireland's history.

Ross enjoyed relatively high vote shares as a candidate at both the Upper Bann
Upper Bann (UK Parliament constituency)
Upper Bann is a Parliamentary Constituency in the United Kingdom House of Commons. The current Member of Parliament for Upper Bann is David Simpson.-Boundaries:...

 by-election of 1990 and the 1994 European elections
European Parliament election, 1994 (UK)
The European Parliament Election, 1994 was the fourth European election to be held in the United Kingdom. It was held on 9 June, though, as usual, the ballots were not counted until the evening of 12 June. The electoral system was, for the final European election, First Past the Post in England,...

. He headed the list for the UIM at the 1996 elections for the Northern Ireland Forum
Northern Ireland Forum
The Northern Ireland Forum was a body set up in 1996 as part of a process of negotiations that eventually led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998....

 (a precursor to the Northern Ireland Assembly
Northern Ireland Assembly
The Northern Ireland Assembly is the devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. It has power to legislate in a wide range of areas that are not explicitly reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and to appoint the Northern Ireland Executive...

) although he failed to get elected and has since largely left politics, emerging from time to time to write articles for the Ulster Third Way
Ulster Third Way
The Ulster Third Way is the Northern Ireland branch of the Third Way and is organised by David Kerr, who had previously campaigned as an 'independent Unionist' as well as for the British National Front.As well as sharing the Third Way's aims U3W is committed to securing independence...

 journal, Ulster Nation.

As a member of the Orange Order, Rev Ross was also involved in the difficulties over the march to Drumcree Church
Drumcree Church
Drumcree Parish Church, officially The Church of the Ascension, is the parish church of Drumcree Church of Ireland parish. The church is within the townland of Drumcree, roughly 1.5 miles to the northeast of Portadown, County Armagh....

 and addressed rallies of Order supporters in the area.

The Committee allegations


Ross' retirement from the political scene was in part caused by accusations in a Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 documentary that he was part of a committee which oversaw collusion between the Royal Ulster Constabulary
Royal Ulster Constabulary
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was the name of the police force in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 2000. Following the awarding of the George Cross in 2000, it was subsequently known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC. It was founded on 1 June 1922 out of the Royal Irish Constabulary...

 and loyalists
Ulster loyalism
Ulster loyalism is an ideology that is opposed to a united Ireland. It can mean either support for upholding Northern Ireland's status as a constituent part of the United Kingdom , support for Northern Ireland independence, or support for loyalist paramilitaries...

.

The programme and resulting book claimed that the Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee
Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee
The Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee was set up in 1974 in the aftermath of the Ulster Workers Council Strike, in order to facilitate meetings and policy co-ordination between the Ulster Workers Council, the loyalist paramilitaries and the political representatives of...

 (ULCCC), an umbrella group for loyalist
Ulster loyalism
Ulster loyalism is an ideology that is opposed to a united Ireland. It can mean either support for upholding Northern Ireland's status as a constituent part of the United Kingdom , support for Northern Ireland independence, or support for loyalist paramilitaries...

 paramilitary
Paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 organisations that had been refounded in 1991 actually acted as a co-ordination body between a number of leading community figures including Ross, Ulster Bank
Ulster Bank
Ulster Bank is a large commercial bank, one of the Big Four in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Ulster Bank Group is subdivided into two separate legal entities, Ulster Bank Limited and Ulster Bank Ireland Limited...

 chief Billy Abernethy and solicitor Richard Monteith, with elements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary
Royal Ulster Constabulary
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was the name of the police force in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 2000. Following the awarding of the George Cross in 2000, it was subsequently known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC. It was founded on 1 June 1922 out of the Royal Irish Constabulary...

 and loyalist gunmen such as Billy Wright
Billy Wright (loyalist)
William Stephen "Billy" Wright was a prominent Ulster loyalist during the period of violent religious/political conflict known as "The Troubles". He joined the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1975 and became commander of its Mid-Ulster Brigade in the early 1990s...

 with the aim of identifying targets. One of the leading sources for the book was Jim Sands, a UIM member who served as assistant to Ross. Sands claimed that Ross was a leading member of the ULCCC and thus had an input in deciding the targets of loyalist terror groups. Sands further claimed that Ross believed in a militantly violent path to Ulster nationalism and claimed in a 1991 interview that Ross aimed to form a symbiotic relationship between the UIM and Ulster Resistance
Ulster Resistance
Ulster Resistance was a paramilitary movement established by unionists in Northern Ireland on 10 November 1986 in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.-Origins:The group was launched at a three thousand-strong invitation-only meeting at the Ulster Hall...

 in the style of Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

 and the Provisional Irish Republican Army
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

. Other UIM activists were implicated in the allegations, such as Nelson McCausland
Nelson McCausland
Nelson McCausland, MLA is a unionist politician from Northern Ireland. He is the current Minister for Social Development in the Northern Irish Government.-Education:...

, whilst Abernethy was a supporter having signed the nomination papers for Ross's candidacy in Upper Bann.

In response to the initial broadcast Ross appeared on the Channel 4 programme Right to Reply
Right to Reply
Right to Reply was a British television series shown on Channel 4 from 1982 until 2001, which allowed viewers to voice their complaints or concerns about TV programmes...

. During the show Ross argued that he had no links to paramilitaries or the 'Inner Force' of the RUC and added that clips shown of him speaking had been taken out of context and amounted to only a few minutes from an interview that lasted a few hours. He further added that he had only agreed to work with the Committee's makers as he felt it was an opportunity to promote his largely unknown political party. Ross was accompanied to the studio by David Trimble
David Trimble
William David Trimble, Baron Trimble, PC , is a politician from Northern Ireland. He served as Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party , was the first First Minister of Northern Ireland , and was a Member of the British Parliament . He is currently a life peer for the Conservative Party...

 and it was later alleged that the two had a close relationship, founded on their mutual interest in Ulster nationalism (it being claimed that after his spell in the Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party
Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party
The Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party , informally known as Ulster Vanguard, was a unionist political party which existed in Northern Ireland between 1973 and 1978...

 Trimble had been involved in authoring the pro-independence booklet Beyond the Religious Divide, produced by the New Ulster Political Research Group in 1977).

Following the Right to Reply appearance Ross sent a letter to the producers of the Committee threatening them with a defamation suit, although ultimately nothing came of this. Sands would later claim that his evidence regarding UIM involvement in any conspiracy had been a hoax. Despite this Ross was photographed in July 1995 at what was purported to be ULCCC meeting in attendance with Abernethy and Alex Kerr
Alex Kerr (loyalist)
Alex Kerr is a Northern Irish former loyalist paramilitary. Kerr was a brigadier in the Ulster Defence Association before becoming one of the two founders of the Loyalist Volunteer Force . He is no longer active in loyalism....

, an associate of Billy Wright.

Ultimately the allegations remained unproven, but the incident damaged Ross's reputation and saw membership of the UIM dwindle. The group disappeared after the 1996 Northern Ireland Forum
Northern Ireland Forum
The Northern Ireland Forum was a body set up in 1996 as part of a process of negotiations that eventually led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998....

elections and Ross took no further part in politics.