From loyalist golden boy to marked man

Dan McGinn

As the former loyalist terror boss prepared for a new life with his wife Gina and their four children in Bolton, he must look over his shoulder for potential assassins.

Once the golden boy of loyalism, Adair was a hate figure for republicans for much of the 1990s because of his direction of a vicious campaign of sectarian violence against Catholics.

But he was even more of a marked man for loyalists as he emerged from Maghaberry Prison yesterday, thanks to a vicious feud two years ago within the ranks of the Ulster Defence Association.

Originally from Hazelfield Street in the loyalist heartland of Belfast's Shankill Road, Adair rose through the ranks of the Ulster Freedom Fighters as one of its most feared gang leaders during the 1990s.

As commanding officer of C Company, he established a Shankill Road power base.

Totally fearless, he would be spotted by police jogging around republican areas of Belfast at night and made little effort to conceal his loathing of Catholics.

During an interview with the Guardian in October 1993, Adair was asked whether he ever had a Catholic in his car.

"Only a dead one," he replied.

At his 1995 trial for directing terrorism in Belfast Crown Court, prosecutor Pat Lynch described Adair as "dedicated to his cause, which was nakedly sectarian in its hatred of those it regarded as militant republicans among whom he had lumped almost the entire Catholic population."

Adair also revelled in his own notoriety.

Dubbed Mad Dog by his community and in the tabloids, he boasted to police about his exploits but was to pay the price when an RUC officer was fitted with a concealed microphone, recording their conversations.

He became the first person in Northern Ireland to be charged with directing terrorism an offence put on the statute book a short time earlier to trap terror godfathers who plotted and planned slaughter without pulling the trigger.

Once inside the Maze Prison, Adair remained a power within loyalism and was among UFF leaders who held emergency talks with Northern Secretary Mo Mowlam following the assassination inside the jail of loyalist terror boss, Billy Wright.

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