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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Analysis: Why UDA dumped Adair
UDA flag
Adair said UDA statement on his expulsion was 'rubbish'

Within Northern Ireland's loyalist community the talk is of one thing only.

The largest of the paramilitary organisations - the Ulster Defence Association - is in disarray and a head count is under way.

In this internal discussion, there is only one question that matters: Who stands with Johnny Adair and who stands with the rest?

The rest are the other leaders of the group, who, on Wednesday, dumped Adair in such a public way.

Johnny Adair
Johnny Adair: Seen as having a foot in two camps
That decision was taken at a meeting in east Belfast, where representatives of five of the UDA's six "brigade" areas attended.

Adair - once convicted of directing terrorism and not long released from prison - was not invited.

"He put us in an impossible position," said one UDA leadership source.

So what is it all about?

Two loyalist paramilitary organisations - the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the much larger UDA - are at each others' throats.

There is a view among those who know him best and who have watched him most closely, that he wanted to rule the loyalist roost

Already one senior loyalist figure has been murdered and another wounded, and on the security side there is an assessment that the two groups are about go to war.

Adair was seen as having a foot in both camps and painted his colours on the wall of the Shankill estate in west Belfast, where a joint LVF/UDA mural has appeared in the stronghold of his so-called "C Company".

For the other leaders in the UDA, this was a step too far. Adair had sided with an enemy and, yesterday, he was shown the door.

He was effectively expelled from the organisation, but Adair is not someone who will go quietly.

Worried 'deep down'

Like the moth and the flame, he is someone who can not stay away from trouble, and last night he was filmed ripping up the statement from the UDA leadership and dismissing it as "rubbish".

But deep down and away from the cameras, Adair will be worried.

New lines have been drawn within loyalism and on the face of things he appears outnumbered.

"There's no way back," one loyalist leader told me.

"This is not a shake hands thing," he added.

What he means is Adair will not be welcomed back into the UDA "Inner Council" - its leadership of six "brigadiers".

From outside the organisation, there have been offers to mediate but these have been rejected.

This time the UDA has to sort out its own mess.

Not deserted by all

The threat of violence is high and the security approach will be to try to "police it out" - sit on the loyalists and try to stop them harming each other.

But this cannot be sustained forever and there seems an inevitability about how things will develop from here.

Adair has not been deserted by everyone. He still has support on Belfast's Shankill Road and allies within the LVF, but within his own community he has never been more vulnerable.

There is a view among those who know him best and who have watched him most closely, that he wanted to rule the loyalist roost - that it is this which has driven him.

Adair has miscalculated, misread the rest of the UDA leadership and made himself an enemy of those who, for a long time, were prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with him.

It is not republicans he now fears, but his own.

See also:

26 Sep 02 | N Ireland
17 Sep 02 | N Ireland
17 Sep 02 | N Ireland
15 Dec 00 | N Ireland
17 Sep 02 | N Ireland
12 Sep 02 | N Ireland
15 Sep 02 | N Ireland
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