Adair broke rules and flouted 'paramilitary decencies'

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The Independent Online

Last night's arrest of the loyalist leader Johnny Adair came as little surprise to most in Belfast, given that in recent months he has broken many unwritten rules and flouted what might be called the paramilitary decencies.

Last night's arrest of the loyalist leader Johnny Adair came as little surprise to most in Belfast, given that in recent months he has broken many unwritten rules and flouted what might be called the paramilitary decencies.

Prisoners released under the Good Friday Agreement were supposed to stay out of trouble and away from paramilitary activity. But Adair has since early July become more and more exuberant and exhibitionist in his behaviour, keeping himself constantly in the public eye.

In ordering his arrest, the authorities evidently believe that he has been involved in directing terrorism. It was for precisely this offence that he was given a 16-year sentence, of which he had served five and a half years before being freed.

The authorities will be well aware, however, that putting him behind bars will probably not end his malign influence, since he has previously shown himself capable of sending out orders from his prison cell.

A grisly flamboyance has always been one of Adair's trademarks. Much of the evidence that jailed him in the first place came from RUC officers who recorded the boasts that Adair routinely made to them. Had he remained quiet, as most loyalist and republican activists have learnt to do, he would not have been convicted.

In recent months he has actively courted publicity, appearing close to a number of demonstrations of paramilitary weaponry and giving many media interviews. He was to the fore in July's Drumcree marching protests, on one occasion leading a band of men wearing UFF T-shirts to police lines at Portadown.

The UFF's response to allegations of drug-dealing was to threaten to start killing Catholics again because, it said, Protestants in peace-line districts were under attack. The threat was withdrawn, amid some embarrassment, after it was demonstrated that no such attacks had taken place. It was, however, reinstated later.

Just over a week ago, he insisted, in the face of widespread scepticism, that a small explosion in north Belfast was an IRA attempt to assassinate him. Few accepted this, since the device, a crude pipebomb, was a loyalist weapon and not a republican one.

According to Adair: "I was sitting in a car minding my own business when someone threw a blast bomb at me. They came from behind, like cowards, as they always do. There is no doubt in my mind that it was the Provisional IRA."

The present spasm of violence began with another Adair flourish; a march along Belfast's Shankill Road led to violence when UFF men attacked a bar frequented by supporters of the rival UVF.

At least three people were injured by UFF gunmen during the incident, which led to a close associate of Adair's and another loyalist being shot dead in the violence on Monday.

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