UDA man Glen Barr ‘got Libya to drop support for IRA’

A new potted biography of former paramilitary Glen Barr says that he helped convince the Libyan regime to halt its support for the IRA – albeit only temporarily.

Friday, 15th January 2021, 6:46 am
An Ulster independence flag

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography just yesterday added the UDA figurehead to its compendium of over 64,000 important figures who have influenced life in the UK.

Mr Barr (whose Christian name is often spelled as Glenn) was born one of 10 children in the Waterside, east Londonderry city.

He was originally a trade unionist who later became one of the most recognisable faces of the nascent paramilitary movement.

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UDA men Tommy Lyttle, Glen Barr, and John McMichael, 1979

He was something of an oddity among loyalists in that he advocated independence for Northern Ireland.

The position got some traction within the UDA (and still has some advocates today, evidenced by the unofficial Ulster Independence Flag visible in some loyalist estates), but the biography states that he “failed to garner broad support” for the cause.

It states that he joined the UDA in 1971 and throughout the next decade he was frequently acting as its lead spokesman.

He quit in 1981 in protest at UDA political overtures, with the movement making moves to enter party politics.

During the period 1971 to 1981, the UDA/UFF murdered at least 127 people, but probably far more (once covernames and unclaimed murders are taken into account).

Described by the biography as “charismatic”, he was a key enforcer of the 1974 Ulster Workers’ Council Strike, with some in the press dubbing him a “warlord” (the biography goes on to add that he “revelled in the notoriety” which this brought him).

“Although he always insisted that he was never involved in the ‘military’ wing of the UDA,” says the biography, “he rarely criticized the UDA’s paramilitary actions while he remained a member.”

The biography notes that one success which he enjoyed was getting Muammar Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya, to suspend its crucial support for the IRA.

“In late 1974 Barr led a UDA delegation to Libya with the hope of gaining financial backing to support Ulster independence,” it says.

“While this was not forthcoming the loyalists did convince Libyan officials that the Northern Ireland conflict was primarily an internal conflict rather than an anti-imperialist campaign and Libya ended support for the IRA for several years.”

It adds: “With Fine Gael TD Paddy Harte he was the co-founder and joint executive chairman of the Journey of Reconciliation Trust, which was created to recognize the sacrifice of those from Ireland who died during the First World War”.

He was one of the early members of the Parades Commission, and was subsequently given an OBE for “services to the community” in 2005.

The married father of four died on October 24, 2017 following a stroke, having suffered prostate cancer and heart problems.

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