The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Fighting For The Right To Be A British Drug Dealer

Mad Dog: The Rise And Fall Of Johnny Adair And ‘C’ Company. By David Lister and Hugh Jordan. Mainstream Publishing. £15.99. ISBN 1-84018-791-31.

Anthony McIntyre • Fortnight, September, 2004

Since its emergence as a cover name for the UDA in 1973, the UFF and its first spokesperson, Captain Black - believed to be a play on the name of UDA Shankill Butcher John White - struck terror into the heart of innocent Catholics. The 'guilty' Catholics - those in the IRA - seemed to have little to fear from the band of loyalist killers. The latter, until the 1990s, rarely seemed capable of passing the first Catholic they encountered. As few Catholics were IRA volunteers it was statistically unlikely that 'death at the hands of the UDA' would ever appear on the headstones of those interred in the republican plot at Milltown. In the case of Michael Stone, finding himself in a situation where even the blind could shoot IRA men, he managed to miss all but one of them.

Although Johnny Adair is said to have changed all of that and boasts to have taken the war to the IRA, little emerges from the book by Hugh Jordan and David Lister detailing the activity of the Shankill loyalist and his ‘C’ Company, that would add ballast to such claims. Yes, his men did attack Sinn Fein councillors and they fired rockets at Sinn Fein property. But Adair’s most prolific murderer Stevie 'Top Gun' McKeag, preyed only on the defenceless innocent, on occasion taking ‘the war’ to a young mother working in a pharmacy, a Falls Road barber, or elderly men in a bookies. 14 'kills' and not an IRA volunteer amongst them. Hardly congruous with the imagery of a disciplined military cadre projected from the clipped martial language of a ‘measured military response’ that McKeag’s bosses liked to employ as a euphemism for murdering Catholics.

Looking back on the first half of the 1990s, there is a tendency to feel that there was a widespread UDA campaign being launched with equal intensity from a range of locations. But the ferocity with which the onslaught was waged serves to disguise the fact that the lion’s share of the killing was taken by a relatively small number of people located in a tiny geographical enclave. Although the book claims that there was no evidence of security force collusion at a senior level, many readers will find it impossible to accept that. The Ballymurphy IRA, for example, could not have killed as many people as the UDA’s Shankill ‘C’ Company did and survived as long. C Company only went out of business whenit became a political imperative for the British state to remove its leader. The evidence was always available to convict Adair but was never pulled together until it was deemed that his continuing presence on the streets would constitute a threat to the developing peace process.

There are no dips in the pace of the narrative of this sordid tale. Whatever else Johnny Adair can be accused of, being dull will never appear on his rap sheet. And the book should not be evaluated on grounds other than what it purports to be. It is not a sociological history or anthropological study of the Lower Shankill. ‘C’ Company is explained largely as a personality driven entity. The pages come together in a well-crafted journalistic account of a man who wreaked havoc. It does not try to situate Adair in any complex analytical framework. His world was largely the area he grew up in and ultimately his ego came to outgrow it. Johnny Adair, as an energetic and enthusiastic sectarian killer, was certainly involved in a political conflict but failed to bring little in the way of political motivation to it. His was a mixture of peer expectation, sectarian hatred and the longing for an exalted status in an impoverished community where other methods of acquiring social standing were in as short supply as social amenities. Political sophistication and Johnny Adair were mutually exclusive. On the two occasions that he met British secretaries of state his political philosophy was encompassed in the number of words used to express it - a grand total of zilch.

Adair's legacy is that he managed not only to destroy the lives of many Catholics, he also left the Lower Shankill a wasteland, where the veneer of painted murals and roadside kerbs do little to conceal the drab quality of life experienced by the people who now live there. At a time when the Shankill Mirror is being deluged with letters opposing any plans he might have for returning to the Lower Shankill on release, Lister and Jordan’s book helps explain why.

As Adair now sits in Maghaberry, most of his cronies having deserted him, his son in prison and his wife suffering from cancer, the big decision facing him is whether it is worth the candle fighting to remain a British drug dealer rather than an Irish one.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

12 September 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Standing Down
Mick Hall

Life in the Party
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Is There a Peaceful Way to a Peoples Republic?
Liam O Comain

Rising to the Top of the Hate List
Fred A. Wilcox

Books Not Bombs
Mary La Rosa

Fighting for the Right to be a British Drug Dealer
Anthony McIntyre

Document Stamped 'Secret'
submitted by Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh

The Final Insult
Starry Plough Editorial Collective

Tensions Escalate as Loyalists March Through the Ardoyne
Paul Mallon

6 September 2004

Not In Our Name
Fred A Wilcox

Child Murderers
Anthony McIntyre

32 CSM Urges Russian Government: Recognize Chechen Independence
Sean Burns

Who is Really to Blame?
George Young

Resistance, by ANY Means.
David A' Gardner

Reality Check
Patrick Lismore

Fairy Cleansing
Seaghán Ó Murchú

The Culture of Lies and Deceit
Liam O Comain

Labour Steps Up Pressure on IRA to Disband
Paul Mallon



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