'Mad Dog' Adair plans appeal after Christmas parole is denied

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The Independent Online

The leading Belfast loyalist Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair is to appeal against the Government's refusal to parole him from prison at Christmas. Adair, best-known of the leaders of the illegal Ulster Defence Association, has been ordered to stay in Maghaberry on the orders of John Reid, the Northern Ireland Secretary .

The decision was welcomed by nationalist representatives but was described by one of Adair's associates as "scandalous". His arrest was ordered in August last year by Peter Mandelson, who was then Northern Ireland Secretary, after he was considered to have breached the terms of his licence. Adair had been freed 11 months earlier under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He was locked up in an attempt to calm the inter-loyalist feuding which led to more than a dozen deaths and the displacement of several hundred families from their homes in the Shankill Road district of Belfast.

When Adair was returned to prison the authorities made clear they believed he was deeply involved not just in the violent feud but also in sectarian attacks, attempted gun-running and drug-dealing.

He is due for release next year when his sentence expires, but had expected to enjoy the Christmas parole which has traditionally been granted to most paramilitary prisoners. It is believed two hundred others in the prison have been given leave.

Describing the decision as grossly unfair, his associate John White said yesterday: "On the one hand republicans are being given amnesties and yet here's a man who has been denied the opportunity to spend time with his wife and four children. So this has all gone down very badly within my community."

Alban Maginnis, a north Belfast spokesman for the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, said releasing Adair would have been "utter madness" in the context of continuing violence in the area, including two murders in the past two weeks. He added: "I believe he is still a very powerful paramilitary leader with a very influential position within the UDA."

Several months ago, the Government formally announced that they regarded the UDA ceasefire as over, in the wake of widespread violence in north Belfast and elsewhere. Earlier this month the UDA shot dead William Stobie, a former member of the organisation who was also an RUC Special Branch informer. Stobie had earlier been acquitted of the murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, shot by the UDA in 1989.

Adair, 38-year-old command-er of the Ulster Freedom Fighters' notorious C Company, is expected to apply for a judicial review of the parole decision in the High Court in Belfast.

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