The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Drugadair And The Drugadiers

‘He is an unsophisticated, greedy little backstreet hood’
- Glasgow gangsters on Johnny Adair

Anthony McIntyre • 30 January 2003

When the UDP would make an appearance at Stormont as part of a delegation journalists would comment that it was the turn of the Ulster Drugs Party to get more high than mighty about some pressing issue. So, observing Kevin Magee and the Spotlight team make their way into the UDA’s Big Brother House in the Lower Shankill estate I was eerily reminded of the Brazilian journalist Tim Lopes who had ventured into one his own country’s shantytowns in a bid to shed light on the nefarious activities of drug dealers who infested the poverty stricken neighbourhood. He never returned and was later found hacked to death. With empires to protect those who put them there can leave nasty surprises for anyone willing to poke under the stones upon which they are built. Magee came out to tell the tale - and what viewing it made. He pulled few punches and refused to confer respect on the ‘men of honour’, calling them gangsters rather than brigadiers.

This was a story that needed told, even if it was to state what we all knew already - that the UDA is a criminal conspiracy willing to employ the brawn of the mafia but considerably short on its brain. We have all heard the joke about John Adair junior being shot because the father found him reading a book. And as it says on Johnny Adair's business card, “Ulster Freedom Fighter. West Belfast 2nd Batilon. Ye ha. F.... the ra”. Maybe Johnny just pronounces battalion with a French accent, just as John White doesn't drink or smoke, which helps make him the proud owner of a 300 000 home, stables and a Jag. As a friend said yesterday, maybe he doesn't smoke 5000 cigarettes and doesn't drink twenty bottles of brandy each day, putting the money he saves from such abstinence toward paying his mortgage and HP.

A couple of months ago myself and another republican were on our way to North Belfast - his family doctor is located there. He doesn't mind the journey and likes to drive across the Shankill and through its loyalist mural festooned lower end replete with painted kerbstones just to see 'how the other half live.' He was relaxed about it, slowing at one point or another to look at a mural or to let a pedestrian across. I was less concerned with how they lived, being preoccupied with the fact that I wanted to continue to live, and could not get through the place quickly enough. On the drive down the Shankill Road I was struck by the dilapidation of the area. It seemed worse than our own, even if our streets are littered with filth. The Falls Road at any rate exudes the appearance of being more upmarket and vibrant. The question crossed my mind if the more able were not in fact leaving the Shankill rather than live under the rule of the drug barons. There must be some correlation between the prevalence of the narcotics gangs and the level of deprivation. What quality of life can develop under what Billy Hutchinson described as ‘Neanderthals whose knuckles are trailing the ground’?

When thieves fall out it is never that long before the dirty linen too falls out of the bag. It is a matter of regret that the public have to wait for the infighting rather than gaining access to the inside track as of right. Spotlight did an admirable job in helping viewers join the dots linking one drug lord to another in the foggy underworld of loyalist criminality. Tapping into a rich vein in the growing fault line dividing the West Belfast Ulster Drugs Association from its other five criminal empires, Kevin Magee and his colleagues permitted their audience to be bombarded with allegation and counter allegation. The accusations being hurled from one drug camp to the next were remarkable for the unity of their discourse. The ‘other side’ was involved in drugs, criminality, work evasion, and scams. C Company lost on points only because they ran a brothel to boot - colourfully described by Sammy Duddy as a whore house. Duddy may be grateful that he was not forced to work in it as one of the ‘whores’ given his previous life as a drag artist.

Spotlight provided a valuable window into a seedy, sordid and vicious world. However, as a friend told me over coffee yesterday its one drawback was that it seemed to justify the imprisonment of Adair while portraying the rest of the ‘evil empire’ as somehow less deserving of similar accommodation. A recent TV documentary claimed that one of Adair’s opponents ordered the murder of Gerard Lawlor. Who or what is being appeased by his state approved recent return to the streets of North Belfast? There seemed little reason for the Spotlight team not to have pressed PSNI Acting Assisting Chief Constable Maggie Harpo Hunter more firmly on that. Are some murderers of Catholic kids more useful to the state outside rather than in the prisons in whatever strategic game of 'pass the druggie' it seems intent on playing with the Ulster Drugs Association?




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

26 January 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Drugadair and the Drugadiers
Anthony McIntyre


Thesis Antithesis
Paul Dunne


The Hungry Continent
Terence McMenamin


Sean Torain


Do They Talk to You?
Annie Higgins


Fight Against American Hyper-Imperialism and Oppression

Sean Matthews


The Letters page has been updated.


23 January 2003


Sinn Féin's International Perspective: From Conservative to Radical in the Blink of an Eye
Deaglán Ó Donghaile


Northern Ireland's Political Goodwill Games
Paul A. Fitzsimmons


New Year's Greetings

Jimmy Sands


Why Ireland is Unfree; Continued
Chris Fogarty


Youth Against the Dictatorship of the Clerics
Anthony McIntyre


West Belfast Anti-War Meeting - Belfast March
Davy Carlin


Conversation with a State Assassin





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