Category: Archive

A View North: A mixed up, muddled up, shook up loyalist world

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Samantha was Sammy’s stage name, which he assumed along with false breasts, a leather miniskirt, fishnet stockings and high heels when he strutted his/her stuff across the stage of the Laharna Hotel in lovely downtown Larne to the whoops and hollers of off-duty British soldiers and UDA men. Those were the days.
I am glad he has changed his attitude from that of 22 years ago. In 1979, he was not amused at all when in some long lost article I wrote on the oddities to be found in the loyalist paramilitary underworld I happened to refer to a leading UDA man (though not by name) who was also a drag queen.
I remember that telephone call as if it was yesterday. After accusing me of insinuating that the UDA were all queers, Sammy invited me over to the UDA headquarters, where, he said, he would prove that they were “real men.” A year later, I received a letter from Sammy, on UDA notepaper. It read:
“Dear Mr. Holland,
Mr. Tyrie [UDA chairman] passed your letter on to me for reply and you may rest assured that you will not be receiving any help from this organization. Perhaps in time you will learn to give people the same respect as they show you. I suppose you thought that we would never see a copy of your infamous New York Times article? Or did you get so self-righteous that you reckoned EVERYBODY believes the lies you print? Whichever way it goes, you have just shit in your own nest.
“Your career (?) has been watched with some interest. We are not as daft as you would assume. You have shown remarkable pro-IRA tendencies, and you have never given us any decent coverage. Your green-tinted ambitions far outweigh any literary talent which you may claim to have, and that’s it!
“I am intending to do a 3-week lecture tour of the States very shortly and you can be sure I will look you up, for old times sake.
“Yours faithfully,
“Sam Duddy, P.R.O.”
Now, compare those “lies” he accused me of printing about the UDA drag queen with what he told Sunday Life: “When I got my stockings and miniskirt on, with my wig, a pair of false boobs and a tight blouse, I was very convincing. There were even occasions when soldiers would fight over me while they were watching my show. I could tell that some people in the audience couldn’t tell the difference.”
Is this perhaps another example of collusion? Or maybe just confusion? Whatever it is, it seems to have worked. According to Sammy, his alter ego, Samantha, “raised thousands for loyalist prisoners over the years.”
Perhaps the new, more open attitude is a byproduct of the peace process, which is allowing people to come to terms with their past. If only the closets of Northern Ireland were filled with nothing more than sexual secrets, so that Sammy and his fellow paramilitaries had only a “Samantha” or two hidden in there. But this is not the case. As the Sunday Life puts it, Sammy was “a UDA terrorist by day . . . and a sexy ‘Samantha’ by night.”
In fact, Sammy was deeply involved in gathering intelligence for the UDA hit squads in North Belfast where some of the most bloodthirsty sectarian killings occurred over the years of the Troubles. He is believed to have worked with one murder team led by a killer whose nickname was “The Window Cleaner.” He earned this nom de guerre from his habit of using ladders to climb into his victim’s bedrooms to shoot them as they slept.
In the end, Sammy did not come to the United States to give his lecture tour, thanks to problems he incurred getting a visa. So we never had the opportunity to meet up again for “old time’s sake.”
Sammy told Sunday Life that his boss, Andy Tyrie, insisted that he give up the drag queen act in 1980. Tyrie was worried that the emerging scandal around the Kincora Boys’ Home might throw Samantha’s cross-dressing frolics in a rather more sinister light. Teenage boys were sexually abused at the home by male nurses, some of whom had loyalist links.
“Andy Tyrie was worried that people would put two and two together and get five, like they do, and think there was something funny going on,” Sammy told the paper. How, of course, could anyone come to such a conclusion, just because the guy helps plan assassinations as his day job and dresses up as a woman at the weekends? What’s funny about that? It was no funnier than the sight I beheld one winter’s morning when I walked into the UDA’s headquarters on the Newtownards Road and saw what was on the notice board. Someone had clipped off headshots of the UDA’s leadership, including Tyrie and Duddy, and pinned them to pornographic photographs of the torsos of naked women.
Now that Sammy is leading the way out of the closet, it will be interesting to see who will follow. I believe that in his new book, Danny Morrison, long-time Provisional republican activist and former editor of Republican News, admits that, yes, he was a member of the IRA. Shock, horror! But this should not be surprising coming from Danny. In his last book he shared some intimate details about his anatomy with the reader that the reader might have preferred not to have known. Who will be next? Danny’s leader, Gerry Adams, has admitted to hugging trees, and, more recently, in an interview with VIP magazine, to occasionally taking a glass of white and of red wine. He even admitted to laughing at Martin McGuinness’s jokes.
This is one reason why we do not need a Truth Commission. Some things are so awful that they are better left in the closet.

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