Pressure on Blair to free paramilitary boss Adair

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The Independent Online

Prime Minister Tony Blair faced fresh pressure to free loyalist paramilitary boss Johnny Adair today.

Prime Minister Tony Blair faced fresh pressure to free loyalist paramilitary boss Johnny Adair today.

The Shankill Road Ulster Freedom Fighter chief had been released early under the Good Friday Agreement but rearrested on the orders of Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson after a bitter feud with rival faction, the Ulster Volunteer Force, claimed the lives of three Belfast men.

Adair's wife Gina, who was flying to London to protest at Downing Street, asked: "Why is he being used as a scapegoat when republican ex-prisoners involved in terrorism are allowed to remain on the streets?"

Political representatives of the two warring groups have held initial talks to find a way of resolving the feud.

David Ervine and Dawn Purvis of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked with the Ulster Volunteer Force, met the UFF-aligned Ulster Democratic Party leader Gary McMichael and his colleague David Adams.

None of the representatives are from the Shankill Road, where the feud has centred, but they hope their exploratory discussions can lead to further talks, eventually involving paramilitaries on both sides.

Today's Downing Street demonstration has been organised by the British/Ulster Alliance, which accused Mr Mandelson of double standards.

A spokesman claimed the RUC and British Government were aware that many ex-republican prisoners were involved in violent terrorist activities and asked why Adair should be made "a political scapegoat" while this occurred.

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