Jackson, Robin (1948–98), loyalist paramilitary, was born in September 1948 in Tullynarry Cottages, Donaghmore, Co. Tyrone, one of seven children of John Jackson, farmhand, and his wife Eileen. As a teenager he participated in Paisleyite demonstrations against the Northern Ireland civil rights movement; he was already a local ‘hard man’ who cultivated an air of menace. After a brief period in Australia Jackson returned home and served in the Ulster Defence Regiment 1972–5; he also joined the Ulster Volunteer Force and is alleged to have committed his first murders in 1973. He was arrested in 1973 after the doorstep killing of a Banbridge catholic who worked in the shoe factory that employed Jackson. The victim's wife identified Jackson as the murderer, but the charge was withdrawn after she admitted to a degree of prompting by the police.
Jackson was a leading member of a UVF gang linked to about 100 murders carried out at random against catholic civilians between 1973 and 1979, earning for the north Armagh and east Tyrone area the nickname ‘the murder triangle’. Jackson also allegedly helped to plan the Dublin and Monaghan car bombings of 17 May 1974, killing thirty-three civilians, and orchestrated the attack on the Miami showband in July 1975. He became UVF mid-Ulster brigade commander in 1975. Never convicted of any of the numerous murders attributed to him, he was however jailed between 1979 and 1983 for arms possession.
Jackson married Eileen Maxwell in the late 1960s; they had a son and two daughters. The marriage did not survive his imprisonment and after his release he moved to Donacloney, Co. Down, where he lived with a much younger girlfriend. He remained active in loyalist paramilitarism but took a less prominent role. He survived several IRA attempts on his life, including the detonation of a car bomb outside his house. In 1984 the editor of the Belfast edition of the Sunday World was shot and wounded after publishing articles denouncing ‘the Jackal’ (the nickname by which the press called Jackson during his lifetime). After the Anglo–Irish agreement (1985) Jackson was briefly linked to Ulster Resistance, a paramilitary group founded by associates of Ian Paisley (qv). Jackson allegedly assisted the rearming and reorganisation of the mid-Ulster UVF under Billy Wright (qv) after the killing of Jackson's brother-in-law and alleged accomplice, Roy Metcalf, by the IRA (1988). Relations between Wright and Jackson cooled, after the killing of a catholic in Donacloney by Wright's men led to Jackson being called in for questioning, and Jackson supported the UVF leadership in its 1996–7 dispute with Wright. Jackson was also the focus of recurring allegations about collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and elements of the security forces in mid-Ulster, including claims that he operated on behalf of British military intelligence who shielded him from prosecution. He died of cancer of the heart on 30 May 1998. Considerable uncertainty surrounds his involvement in many of the crimes attributed to him, but there is no doubt that he was a cold-blooded multiple murderer and one of the most sinister ‘hard men’ of loyalist paramilitarism.