26/09/2002

Adair dismisses UDA expulsion statement

Leading loyalist Johnny Adair has dismissed a decision by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) saying he is to be expelled from the organisation.

Adair, who is head of one of the UDA's six 'brigades', was informed of the decision following meeting of the ruling council in east Belfast on Wednesday night.

However, John White of the Ulster Political Research Group – and close associate of Johnny Adair – said there had been no representation from the west Belfast brigade at the meeting and rebuffed suggestions of a critical split in the organisation.

It is believed the UDA leadership came to their decision following growing rumours that Adair was involved in forging links with the rival Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). And speculation grew when a joint UDA-LVF mural was raised on the lower Shankill Road on Wednesday night – an area under Adair's control. However, Mr White scotched any rumours linking Adair to the LVF.

Tensions between the UDA and LVF have got steadily worse in recent days after the murder of senior LVF member Stephen Warnock and the subsequent reprisal attack on east Belfast UDA commander Jim Gray. Adair's appearance at Mr Warnock's funeral was said to have further inflamed tensions between the organisations.

It is also widely believed that the UDA-LVF face-off is rooted in an internal dispute within loyalism for control of the illegal drugs market.

Adair, who headed the UFF, was released from prison on September 1999 having served five years of a 16 year sentence for directing terrorism. He has been warned by the NIO that he is still considered to be on licence and could be summarily returned to prison up to the summer of 2005 if viewed as a threat to the peace.

Last year Secretary of State Dr John Reid declared both the UDA and LVF to be in breach of their ceasefires.

(MB)

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