19 February 2006

'I'm no threat to anyone.' Why the war is over for Mad Dog Adair

Guardian

Loyalism's former hard man is in Troon to enjoy a quiet life, he tells Henry McDonald in his first UK newspaper interview since fleeing Belfast

Sunday February 19, 2006
The Observer

Elegant ladies-who-lunch glare at him across the floor of their favourite restaurant, and respectable widows walking their Scottie dogs on the beach quicken their step as he walks by. Landlords have barred him from their pubs even though he has never crossed their thresholds. Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair has moved to Troon - and, by his own account, he's not welcome.

Ulster loyalism's most infamous terrorist has left his temporary home in Bolton for the western Scottish coastal town after splitting from his wife Gina and becoming tired of being under constant surveillance by the Greater Manchester Police.

In his first newspaper interview since he and his supporters fled from Belfast three years ago following an internal loyalist feud, Adair, 42, explained his decision to move. 'It's the next best thing to home,' he said, looking towards the Irish Sea, his windcheater flapping in the fierce wind blowing across the stretch of water that separates the north of Ireland from Scotland. 'This is my launching pad. I have supporters in Scotland, I have friends here. I have always said I shall return to Ulster, maybe not in a few weeks, maybe a few months or even years.'

It appears, however, that Adair has few friends in Troon itself, where police have circulated his picture to bar owners and businesses. 'I can't understand what their problem is with me. I'm no threat to anyone here. All I do is sleep here. Most of my time is spent in other parts of Scotland.'

Nor, he insists, is he any longer a threat to the peace process in Northern Ireland. 'The Johnny Adairs of this world don't need to be playing the role they used to before the peace process. Because the war in Ulster is over.' The loyalist commander, whose C company terror unit hunted down and killed republicans as well as ordinary Catholics in the late Eighties and early Nineties, made an extraordinary appeal to the unionist community.

'I believe the IRA and their statement last July. Their armed struggle is over. I hate them, but I believe them when they say they are sincere. I believe them when they said they decommissioned their arms... well, obviously not all the guns, this is the IRA we are talking about and they will need some weapons to defend themselves. But they are sincere about the war being over.'

Asked if that meant unionists should share power with Sinn Fein again at Stormont, Adair replied: 'Absolutely. Why not? It's time for politics, although our politicians have let the people down. I believe the war is over and the loyalist people should take what the IRA did very seriously. I fought the war against them, there's nobody like myself and C company that had them on the run. But the IRA decommissioned, something they said they would never do. So the Protestant people should accept that.'

Adair reserved most of his venom for the Ulster Defence Association leadership, describing them as 'cowards, bullies and thugs'. On the collapse of his notorious unit under pressure from the UDA mainstream, Adair boasted: 'If I hadn't been in prison at the time, in early 2003, it wouldn't have happened. I'd have rallied the troops.'

He has no regrets about rivals that lost their lives in the 2002-2003 internal feud including John 'Grug' Gregg, a UDA assassin who almost killed the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in the Eighties. 'John Gregg boasted that he had four graves dug for all the leaders of C company, including myself. But it's John Gregg who is in the grave today. Talk is cheap, and Gregg shouldn't have threatened C company, because they were dangerous men and women.'

Despite his personal loathing for UDA commanders such as Jackie McDonald, Adair said he backed their recent overtures to the Irish Republic. 'If I was in charge of the UDA, we would still be talking to the Irish President and others if it advanced peace. In fact, there is no need for a UDA any more, the days of organisations taking the war to republican enemies is over.'

Adair dismissed the possibility of a UDA hit team tracking him down and killing him in Scotland. He is wary about returning to Northern Ireland in the foreseeable future. 'It will probably be years, and while I don't underestimate my enemies in the UDA, the real people I worry about are the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force). Because they are more professional.'

Having served 12 years of a 16-year sentence for directing acts of terrorism and having lived life on the edge since he was a teenager, Adair claimed he was enjoying the quiet life in Troon.

'I'm just relaxing now. Life is less complicated. A few weeks ago I went up to Glasgow to see UB40, they're my favourite band of all time. The last time I saw UB40 in Belfast I got shot in the head at an open-air concert. This time in Glasgow no one bothered me or said a word to me. I was anonymous in the crowd.'

He still commands a following, not just among young working-class Protestants in Scotland's central belt. Adair is a friend of so-called 'lotto lout' Michael Carroll. 'He wrote to me when I was in jail and he's stayed in touch ever since. When he comes up to Scotland for Rangers matches, he might call in and see me.'

He also said he is going to Dresden in eastern Germany for a meeting next week with a skinhead gang who wrote to him while he was in the Maze prison. 'The Germans loved C company so much they even got tattoos of our unit on their bodies. But they're not neo-Nazis. In fact, one of them wrote to me apologising for the war.'

Living on benefit, he is touting around his autobiography and has plans for a drama based on his life as one of the most recognisable faces of Nineties terrorism. 'I even have an agent who is negotiating for me,' he said. Asked how his agent could be contacted, he said: 'You can't at the minute, as he's in prison for assault.'

A hotel in town is one of the few places Adair is welcomed. He was perplexed as to why Troon seemed to have turned against him. 'I'm not doing any harm here. I just want to get on with my life.' Sipping a Smirnoff Ice, the bald, tattooed former terrorist leader contemplated a future beyond loyalist paramilitarism. 'Do you think I could get a job as a private security officer or guard in Iraq?'

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