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Friday, 10 January, 2003, 20:34 GMT
Johnny Adair: Notorious loyalist
Johnny Adair
Johnny Adair could be kept in jail until 2005
There have been notorious paramilitaries in the times of Northern Ireland's Troubles.

But in the era of this peace process, Johnny Adair has become unquestionably the most controversial, high-profile and ubiquitous of them all.

Released in September 1999, after serving barely a third of his 16-year sentence for 'directing terrorism' - a new offence created specifically to secure his conviction - Adair emerged into a world of paramilitary ceasefires, declaring he would be working for his community.

He had been considered one of the key figures in securing the support of loyalist prisoners for the peace process, when former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam made her audacious visit to the Maze in 1998.

Now was the chance for him to put that commitment into practice.

Mo Mowlam met Adair at the Maze in 1998

He was certainly seen out and about a lot in his community.

But by the summer of 2000 - just a few months after his release - he was already considered by the police as a risk to peace.

His close ties with the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) - a splinter of the bigger Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) - with its powerbase in Portadown, County Armagh, led to mounting tensions with the UVF.

Adair was seen several times in Portadown, associating with LVF gunmen.

He was pictured in Belfast, too, as the city was brought to a standstill with roadblocks and intermittent gunfire as part of a protest at the ban on the Orange Order's Drumcree march along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road.

But it was the bitter loyalist rivalry which spilled over into the streets of the Shankill area of west Belfast, which proved decisive in Adair's return to prison.

In August a 'celebration of loyalist culture' - effectively a show of strength by Adair's group, the Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters along the Shankill Road - sparked an outbreak of shootings, which left three people dead within days.

Swift rearrest

With party offices being attacked, taxi firms targeted and homes shot at, the then Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson ordered his re-arrest.

Within hours he was back in jail, this time in Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn.

It was nearly four months before the Sentence Review Commission assessed Adair's record. Its preliminary indication sent a wave of shock through the Northern Ireland Office, as it suggested Adair should be released.

The commission was not convinced he had broken the terms of his early prison release; not convinced he had been involved in drugs-dealing, in paramilitary activity, or in dealing with weapons.

Johnny Adair
Adair's links with the LVF proved a problem
That all changed with a private hearing at Maghaberry .

Then RUC chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan and other senior police officers provided intelligence information designed to persuade the commission to change its mind. It worked.

Adair's supporters, notably John White of the now defunct Ulster Democratic Party, challenged the ruling without success.

He was released on 15 May 2002 and returned to his powerbase in the lower Shankill.

His renewed links with the LVF were to cause further problems but these were to come from within the organisation.

A leading member of the LVF was shot dead in a feud with the UDA and Adair was seen to have a foot in both camps.

The feud with the LVF was settled but Adair and John White were expelled from the UDA.

A series of attacks followed resulting in the murders of four men.

On Boxing Day, Jonathan Stewart, 22, was shot dead in north Belfast.

Mr Stewart, who had no paramilitary links, was a relative of one of ex-UFF leader Johnny Adair's former associates.

John White: Adair's close associate has fled to Scotland

On 2 January, Roy Green, 32, was shot as he left a bar in the Ormeau area of south Belfast.

A former prisoner, Mr Green was a member of the UDA, but was said to have been critical of the organisation's leadership.

Adair was arrested and returned to prison on 10 January 2003 after the Northern Ireland secretary received a security briefing that he was involved in directing terrorism, drugs and extortion and distributing weapons.

The decision to return him to prison is being challenged in the High Court.

On 2 February, a more sinister twist in the loyalist feud resulted in the murder of two men, one a leading member of the UDA.

John Gregg, the 45-year-old leader of the paramilitary's wing in south east Antrim, was killed when the taxi he was travelling in was ambushed near the docks area of Belfast.

The hail of bullets also killed Robert Carson, a 33-year-old member of the UDA.

Supporters of Johnny Adair were blamed for the double murder.

However, UDA members in the greater Shankill area said they no longer recognised the leaders of Adair's faction.

Loyalist sources claimed more than 100 members of the UDA's so-called C Company defected to other parts of the organisation, breaking links with Adair.

Then, hours before Gregg's funeral, about 20 of Adair's closest followers, including his wife and close associate John White, fled their homes for Scotland.

Their challenge to the mainstream UDA was over and they had to run for their lives.

Johnny Adair and a loyalist paramilitary




See also:

09 Jan 01 | N Ireland
06 Jul 00 | N Ireland
08 Dec 00 | N Ireland
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