By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Loyalist gangster and multiple-murderer Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair was freed from jail last Wednesday pledging to work for peace but, within an hour, was threatening retribution against rivals.
The British authorities could no longer keep the loyalist behind bars after his 16-year sentence expired. He is now said to be on holiday with his wife and four children.
Adair, jailed for “directing terrorism,” told a whooping crowd of fellow loyalists at a street party in his Shankill Road redoubt that he and his notorious “C Company” of the UDA had “forced the IRA to the negotiating table.”
While saying he didn’t “want trouble,” he told supporters that they would not stand by and allow themselves to be labeled “drug-dealers and glue-sniffers” by rival loyalists.
Minutes earlier, a spokesman had told journalists outside the jail that he was committed to the peace process. Surrounded by all six of the UDA’s divisional “commanders,” Adair stood silent as an associate read out a statement on his behalf.
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Although the presence of the six was a significant, if sinister, show of public solidarity, few doubt that Adair is at risk from fellow loyalists, jealous of his influence.
Adair was convicted in 1994 but released in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, which his group, the UDA, now opposes. In the summer of 2000, he was rearrested and had his freedom revoked by the then Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Mandelson, at the height of the loyalist feud.
Several hundred loyalist supporters gathered at the gates of Maghaberry prison to greet Adair before he returned to his home on the lower Shankill. As he emerged from a prison van, he shouted “Quis Separbit,” the UDA slogan.
Adair posed for pictures outside the jail but made no comment. He appeared less muscular and tanned than he had when he was sent back to jail two years ago.
Security chiefs have said they will be keeping a 24-hour watch on Adair given the upsurge in violence witnessed from the UDA in recent months.
Nationalist politicians have said that while Adair talked of being a positive influence, his record suggests otherwise. They claimed Adair would be judged by his actions, rather than his words.
Security sources believe Adair’s gang of loyalists was responsible for the murders of at least 20 Catholics in the 1980s and ’90s. The loyalist feud of the summer of 2000, during which he was sent back to jail, claimed another seven lives. He was also then accused by police of gun trading, drug dealing and inciting sectarian violence. He was filmed at loyalist gatherings when gunfire was sprayed into the air, accompanied by his dog, Rebel, clad in a union-flag shirt.