Category: Archive

‘Mad Dog’ back in jail

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Chris Thornton

BELFAST — One of Northern Ireland’s most notorious loyalists, Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair, was arrested by the RUC Tuesday amid escalating tension and violence between rival loyalist organizations.

Adair, one of the leading members of the Ulster Defense Association, was detained while driving along the Shankill road in Belfast. He was taken to Maghaberry prison, apparently on the direct orders of Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Mandelson.

Adair was released from the Maze prison almost exactly a year ago on special license and as part of the prisoner-release program under the Good Friday accord.

However, following his prominent involvement in a number of recent rallies and shows of force involving masked gunmen firing shots in the air, Adair’s license was suspended by Mandelson, who had earlier railed against what he described as squalid gangland violence.

That violence had taken the lives of two prominent loyalists last Saturday and prompted the return of British troops to Belfast streets.

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“My priority is public safety. And I cannot give freedom to an individual intent on abusing it. I am satisfied that this particular individual has breached the terms of his license,” Mandelson said in a statement.

The Northern Ireland secretary said it was time for everyone to confront what he described as the dark side of Northern Ireland society and a “Mafia culture” created by decades of paramilitary conflict.

The violence that preceded Adair’s detention began last week with attacks on both nationalist and loyalist homes. It quickly escalated and raised the prospect of the peace process becoming destabilized by a feud between the two deadliest Protestant paramilitary groups, the Ulster Defense Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Dozens of homes were attacked with bricks and paint, but the loyalists turned on each other last Saturday, when the UDA staged a huge show of strength on the Shankill Road in West Belfast. Thousands of people watched masked men march along the road, but what may have been intended to intimidate nationalists ended up causing internal strife.

Simmering tensions between the UVF and the UDA broke open with a fistfight outside the Rex Bar, a pub frequented by UVF members. UDA gunmen then returned to the bar twice, leaving six people wounded in separate attacks.

Shots were also fired into the home next door of Northern Ireland Assembly member Billy Hutchinson, whose Progressive Unionist Party is linked to the UVF. The attack may have been directed at Hutchinson, who served a double life sentence for the murders of two Catholic brothers. On the same evening, a UDA mob attacked and ransacked the home of Gusty Spence, the founder of the modern UVF.

Despite appeals for calm, the UVF hit back on Monday morning, killing two men outside a bookmaker’s shop on the Crumlin Road in North Belfast. The two men, identified as Jackie Coulter and Bobby Mahood, both from Belfast, were said to be associated with the UDA.

Much of the violence is reputed to have been provoked by Adair, the 36-year-old Shankill Road loyalist who had been jailed for leading the Ulster Freedom Fighters only to be released last year.

“Everybody knows who did this,” said Hutchinson. “The dogs in the street know who it was.”

Under Adair’s direction in the early 1990s, the Shankill Road UDA became a fearsome killing machine, at a time when loyalists were outstripping the IRA in compiling grisly totals for the first time in the Troubles

The security forces believe the recent rise in sectarian violence is designed to divert attention from drug dealing by loyalists.

In June, Adair’s unit of the UDA threatened to break it cease-fire by attacking any Catholics it believed were involved in attacks on Protestant homes. The threat was issued after a television program raised allegations of drug dealing by leading UDA members.

It then caused embarrassment in the wider circles of the UDA when the Housing Executive, the agency responsible for rehousing people who have been forced from their homes, listed numerous attacks on Catholic homes but said none had been reported in Protestant areas.

The threat was suspended, but was renewed earlier this month when windows were broken in a number of homes in a Protestant area of North Belfast. Sinn FTin and some security sources believe those attacks were actually orchestrated by the UDA to give it an excuse for further sectarian violence.

Last week, Adair was slightly injured in a bomb explosion that he claimed was the work of the IRA.

“They came from behind, like cowards, as they always do,” Adair said. “There is no doubt in my mind that it was the Provisional IRA.”

However, the bomb that injured him was of a type usually used by loyalists, and Adair raised suspicions by delaying the delivery of his car to police for forensic examination.

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