By Jack Holland
As Belfast loyalists partied during the first week in June in celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, some might have noticed that the Lower Shankill — the stronghold of the Ulster Defense Association’s Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair — was comparatively quiet, despite the fact that the area is known for its fervent loyalism. The Lower Shankill Community Association, which is responsible for giving the Jubilee party, has decided to wait until “Mad Dog” gets back from his vacation. This means that the party is not being held until June 22, more two than two weeks after the Jubilee celebrations.
Some locals are calling the June 22 party “Johnny’s Jubilee.”
The decision to defer to Mad Dog’s holiday plans is not surprising, since the community association’s only full-time worker is a high-ranking member of the UDA and a close associate of Adair’s. After Adair went to jail in August 2000, the community worker, who has a salary of about _16,000 (about $20,000), was promoted to the UDA’s brigade staff. When “Mad Dog” was released last month, he was demoted and became leader of a unit of “C” company, which contains some of the UDA’s most notorious hit squads.
The Lower Shankill Community Association, like other community groups in the area, received a grant from Belfast City Council of the equivalent of $9,000 to hold the event. However, the organizers did not think that this was enough and held a door-to-door collection, asking for _25 from each household. There are some 2,000 households in the Lower Shankill estate. Though it is not known how many contributed, one local source suggests at least another _10,000 was raised.
Adair has reassumed control over “C” company, of which he had been in charge since the early 1990s until his arrest in 1994. He was charged and convicted the following year under new legislation of directing terrorism. He was released three years later after the Good Friday agreement was signed. He and his supporters are widely believed to be heavily involved in drug trafficking and sectarian violence, which flares up on a regular basis in nearby North Belfast. During an upsurge in violence and feuding between the UDA and its loyalist rival the Ulster Volunteer Force in 2000, Adair was rearrested.
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During Adair’s period as commander of “C” company in the 1990s, police say that he was involved in the murders of 12 Catholics. Among “C” company’s earlier victims was human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane, shot dead in February 1989.
Some observers are expressing concern that community groups in areas which are dominated by the paramilitaries are coming under the control of organizations such as the UDA, UVF and the Provisional IRA. A worker who specializes in inner-city regeneration programs and is familiar with the Lower Shankill area said that “most community workers in urban areas have a range of connections” with paramilitary groups. Given the recent history of the areas from which they come, that was inevitable, he believed.
“Do you seek to engage with them, showing them that there is a different way, or do you ignore the problem?” he asked. He said the local community of the Lower Shankill broadly supports the first approach. The Association is receiving about _40,000 over a two-year period. According to the regeneration worker, it is carefully tracked.
“It is not a case of money disappearing,” the regeneration worker said.
Meanwhile, a huge bonfire is being built in the Lower Shankill Estate, reportedly larger than even the bonfire for the 12th of July — usually loyalism’s biggest celebration. But this year, it could well be outdone as the Lower Shankill gets ready to celebrate “Johnny’s Jubilee.”