Ulster Liberation Army


Ulster Liberation Army

The Ulster Liberation Army is a fictional organization in the novel Patriot Games by Tom Clancy. In Patriot Games, the Ulster Liberation Army (ULA) is a Maoist off-shoot of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The ULA's leader is Kevin O'Donnell, a former student radical, whom Jack Ryan suspects may have staged the Bloody Sunday incident of 1972. O'Donnell was temporarily chief of security for the PIRA, where he used his position to execute a number of his rivals. Eventually, the PIRA leadership discovered this, and O'Donnell is forced to flee; he and his most radical supporters then create the ULA.

The ULA's main goal is to take over the PIRA and move it more to the left. To that end, O'Donnell plans to capture the British Prince of Wales and his wife and son, then use them to blackmail the British; at the same time, he works to penetrate the PIRA, waiting for the opportune moment to assassinate its leadership. The mission against the royal family would give O'Donnell enough recognition in Ireland that he believes what's left of the PIRA will then accept him as the new leader.

The book begins with a ULA operation against the Prince of Wales in his car in London. Jack Ryan, then a tourist, foils the attempt, earning himself the undying hatred of Sean Miller, who was running the operation. The ULA then retreats to its training camps in Libya to escape the wrath of the British and the PIRA. During the operation, the ULA still carries out two operations, both in the U.S. The first one is an agent provocateur attack on Jack's family, which is then blamed on the PIRA. The second one, soon thereafter, is an attempt to kidnap the Prince when he visits Jack in Maryland. The second operation ends in disaster; O'Donnell, Sean Miller and the rest of the ULA are either killed or captured, and later sentenced to the death penalty.

Foreign connections

The ULA is known to have connections to overseas terrorist groups; in the book, they are allied with an unnamed black radical group in the United States, as well as the real-life Action Directe of France. Connections to other red terrorists, like the Red Army Faction or Italian Red Brigades, are suspected but never proved.

The ULA also has government connections. Its main training facilities are inside Libya, protected by Qaddafi's government, which also provides weapons and funding. It is less clear whether the ULA also has a Soviet or Eastern Bloc connection. While researching the ULA, Ryan discovers that O'Donnell may have had plastic surgery done in a hospital in Moscow, but this is never confirmed. Similarly, Sean Miller mentions "our friends" several times while discussing funding with the black radicals, but it is never explained whether this refers to the Libyans or whether the Soviets are involved as well.

Movie version

In the movie, O'Donnell and his men are an unnamed rogue faction of the IRA; the ULA is never mentioned. They appear to be less motivated by ideology than by simple power; O'Donnell hopes to anger the British into bringing their full military might to bear on the IRA and destroy it, after which, as he puts it, "we'll be the only ones left".

Sean Miller's motivation is also much more personal. In the book, his motivation was strictly professional, and he was described as cold and totally lacking in humanity. In the movie, he has a brother, Paddy, who dies in the attempted attack on a member of the Royal Family (not the Prince of Wales); for the rest of the movie, he is driven by the need for revenge against Ryan, and cares little for the Royals, the Cause, or O'Donnell's goals.


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