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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Loyalist Adair to challenge arrest
Johnny Adair
Security forces believe Adair helped organise recent violence
Political allies of jailed Northern Ireland loyalist Johnny Adair have said he will challenge the decision to return him to prison after violence on the streets of Belfast.

Convicted Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) leader Adair was returned to prison on Tuesday on the order of Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson.

Mr Mandelson said he had police information that Adair had played a pivotal role in orchestrating recent violence between loyalist paramilitary groups.

The dispute erupted into serious violence on Monday when two men were shot dead outside a north Belfast bookmakers.

A man has been arrested and is being questioned about the murders of Jackie Coulter, a senior UDA member, and Bobby Mahood.

The Ulster Democratic Party, which has close links with the Ulster Defence Association/UFF, has said it is considering applying for a judicial review of the decision to reimprison Adair.

Who are the UDA/UFF?
The Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Freedom Fighters make up the largest loyalist paramilitary group in NI. It called a ceasefire in 1994, but recently threatened to break it by shooting Catholics. It is linked politically to the Ulster Democratic Party.
Lawyers met Adair in Maghaberry prison near Lisburn in County Antrim, on Wednesday afternoon.

Adair was convicted of directing terrorism and served five years of a 16-year sentence before his early release from the Maze prison under the Good Friday Agreement in September. His parole licence has now been revoked.

If he does not apply for a judicial review, Adair could instead apply to the the Sentence Review Commission to be released.

If he remains in jail after going before the commission, his estimated release date would be May 2002.

Mr Mandelson has said he hoped Adair's arrest would calm tensions between the UDA/UFF and rival loyalist paramilitary group the Ulster Volunteer Force.

The PUP's Billy Hutchinson
Billy Hutchinson: Fears over escalation of feud
However, there are still concerns that the feud could escalate.

Billy Hutchinson of the Progressive Union Party, which is politically linked to the UVF, said he feared there would be further attacks.

He said: "I fear for the people in my party and the UVF. I have the luxury of security at my home. But I fear for the ordinary man in the street."

The feud, which has been simmering for several months, erupted at a UDA-linked Shankill festival last Saturday.

Jackie Coulter and Booby Mahood were shot dead as they sat in a car outside a Crumlin Road bookmakers on Monday afternoon.

'Need for mediation'

UDP leader Gary McMichael said that while Adair's arrest could make the feud "worse," it was "not just about an individual".

He said there was still a need for mediation between the loyalist paramilitaries.

Troops have been patrolling the Protestant Shankill area of Belfast to head off any retaliatory action.

Peter Mandelson: Suspended loyalist's licence
Peter Mandelson: "Loyalist ceasefire not broken"
Mr Mandelson met his security chiefs to discuss the latest situation on Wednesday.

The government has been under pressure for some time to move against Adair over claims that he was involved in stirring sectarian up tensions, while playing a key role in the feud with the rival UVF.

Mr Mandelson said Adair's arrest should be a warning to others.

"Nobody is untouchable in Northern Ireland, nobody is above the law. That is precisely as Johnny Adair has appeared to behave in the last few days, and that is completely unacceptable," he said.

But he told BBC Radio Ulster that the "criminal actions of individuals" did not necessarily mean the UDA/UFF's ceasefire had been broken.

Who are the UVF?
The Ulster Volunteer Force is a loyalist paramilitary group which became prominent in the late 1960s at the beginning of the present Troubles. It called a ceasefire in 1994 and is linked politically to the Progressive Unionist Party.
Asked how long Adair would spend in prison, Mr Mandelson said: "In view of what's happened, and the way in which he has had to be recalled, I think it will be some wait and some time for him to go."

Ulster Unionist MP Ken Maginnis said Adair's return to prison should prompt a major crackdown against paramilitary organised crime in Northern Ireland.

"It is time we had an Elliott Ness-type approach to illegal drinking dens, drug trafficking, the exploitation of young girls for prostitution - all areas being controlled by elements of paramilitary organisations," he said.

The BBC's David Eades in Belfast
"Army chiefs have warned Mr Mandelson there could be a backlash"
Northern Ireland Minister, Peter Mandelson
"Overwhelmingly the early release prisoners play a positive role"
UDP spokesman Gary McMichael
"It would be extremely naive to believe that revoking Adair's licence resolves any difficulties"
See also:

22 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Night of uneasy calm in Belfast
21 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Troops back on Belfast streets
21 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Man killed in 'loyalist feud' shooting
22 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
In pictures: Belfast's tense streets
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