- 07 Oct 17
His encounter with the notorious UDA Company C leader is one of the most remarkable interviews ever published in Hot Press...
Once upon a time a troubled time, Johnny Adair was one of the most wanted men in Belfast. Nowadays, he’s probably one of the least wanted.
When his autobiography, Mad Dog, was published in 2007, I travelled to Scotland to interview the notorious former UDA paramilitary. Adair met myself and Hot Press photographer Graham Keogh at Glasgow Airport. He had recently lost his license for drink driving. His trusted lieutenant Ian Truesdale – former owner of the Belfast taxi firm informally known as ‘Murder Cabs’ (so named because, as Adair once quipped, the only Catholics to travel in his cabs were “dead ones”) – drove us all to the seaside town of Troon in a silver Vauxhall.
Adair bombarded me with questions throughout the drive. Where did I get a name like Olaf? Where did I live? Who was the most famous person I’d ever interviewed? Had I met Bono? What was he like? Was he a bit of a dickhead or was he alright? Had I ever met Oasis? Were they snorting coke during the interview? What countries had I travelled to?
It turned out that we’d both been to Jamaica. Adair loved it. Then again, he was just out of prison when he visited. I told him that I wasn’t too keen on the way they always tried to keep you within the tourist compounds, totally segregated from the local population.
“Ah yeah, but fuck that shite!” he said. “I went out and met all the Jamaican lads. I know they’ve a rep for hating white people but, one thing I’ve found is that, wherever you go, everybody loves the Irish. They love us!”
It was something of an Ali-G moment. “Em... but I thought you were British, Johnny,” I said. He burst out laughing: “I am! I am! But I’m Northern Irish too! Ach, you know what I mean, like. Ha, ha! Johnny Adair saying he’s Irish? Fuck off!”
Here's how it all went down...
Belfast's Least Wanted Man
Commander of the notorious Company C of the UDA in Belfast, Johnny Adair was given 16 years for directing terrorism. While he was never convicted of murder, the rumour mill suggests that he has been reponsible for as many as 43 deaths.
In a wide ranging interview, Johnny Adair seems far more comfortable talking about the 1,000 women he has shagged than raking over old coals. Now exiled in Troon in Scotland, he nonetheless remains one of the most feared characters in Northern Ireland. Which is why a lot of people don’t want him back.
Johnny Adair is waiting for Hot Press in the Arrivals Hall of Glasgow Airport. There’s no need for him to hold up a sign: from countless news bulletins and press shots, I already know what the infamous former UDA brigadier looks like.
Given his own serious security concerns, there’s a good chance that he already knows what I look like too. Okay, maybe not. But these are the paranoid thoughts that run through your mind when you’re meeting a man allegedly responsible for 43 deaths and nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’...
It’s 10am on a wet Monday morning, and he’s the only person waiting. Short but well-built, he’s wearing a military jacket and baseball cap, and looking twitchy and uncomfortable (or is that just me?). He shakes hands with myself and photographer Graham Keogh, and quickly escorts us to the exit.
“We’ll drive to Troon and do the interview there,” he says. There’s a silver Vauxhall parked outside. Adair recently lost his license – for drink-driving - so his trusted lieutenant Ian Truesdale is sitting behind the wheel. Balding and craggy-faced, I reckon he’s in his late 40s or early 50s.
Back in the bad old days in Belfast, Truesdale ran a taxi firm. The RUC used to call it ‘Murder Cabs’, because so many of its cars were ‘hijacked’ for UDA hits. Mad Dog once infamously joked that the only Catholics who travelled in Truesdale’s cabs were “dead ones”.
Like his former leader, Truesdale can’t go back to Belfast. He’s recently been released from a UK prison for selling heroin and crack with Adair’s 22-year-old son Jonathan (aka Mad Pup) Adair. In 2003, Truesdale was charged with killing his daughter’s fiancé in a UDA feud. His own brother gave evidence against him, but the charges were ultimately dropped. He currently lives in Bolton, but plans to join Adair in Scotland when his prison license expires.
Mad Dog sits in the front, sparks up a menthol cigarette, and commands, “Let’s go!” As the car pulls off it occurs to me that Special Branch probably now know what I look like as well. I ask is Adair currently under surveillance? “I dunno, but I could well be,” he answers in his thick Belfast brogue. “If I am, it’s a total fuckin’ waste of their time, and taxpayers’ money, because I’m not doing anything these days. Nathin’! If they’re watching me, they’ll know that. I found some hidden surveillance cameras outside my old house in Bolton a while back, but I don’t know if they’re watching me up here.
“Back in Belfast, I was watched 24-hours-a-day. I’d say Johnny Adair was the most watched person in Northern Ireland. They must have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds watching me.” He blows out a stream of smoke. “Maybe even a million.” The seaside town of Troon is about an hour’s drive from Glasgow and, throughout the journey, Adair bombards me with questions. Where did I get a name like Olaf? Where do I live? Who’s the most famous person I’ve ever interviewed? Have I met Bono? What was he like? Is he a bit of a dickhead or is he alright? Truesdale wants to know if I’ve ever met Bob Geldof. “Tell me why I don’t like Mon-days,” he sings, badly, tapping an irregular rhythm on the steering wheel. “I fuckin’ loved that one!”
Have I ever met Oasis? I say that I’ve met Liam. What was he like? Where did I meet him? Was he a mad fucker? Was he snorting Charlie? Adair turns to Truesdale. “I actually had a dream about me and the lads from Oasis the other night. Mad, it was.” He turns back to me. Where have I travelled to? Do Hot Press pay for my flights? What countries have I lived in? “Thailand? What was that like? I’ve heard it’s mad!” We’ve both been to Jamaica. Adair loved it. Then again, he was just out of prison. I tell him that I wasn’t too keen on the way they always tried to keep you within the tourist compounds, totally segregated from the local population.
“Ah yeah, but fuck that shite!” he says. “I went out and met all the Jamaican lads. I know they’ve a rep for hating white people but, one thing I’ve found is that, wherever you go, everybody always loves the Irish. They love us!” It’s something of an Ali-G moment. “Em ... but I thought you were British, Johnny.”
He bursts out laughing. “I am! I am! But I’m Northern Irish too! Ach, you know what I mean, like. Ha, ha! Johnny Adair saying he’s Irish? Fuck off!”
Once upon a troubled time, Johnny Adair was one of the most wanted men in Belfast. Nowadays, he’s probably the least wanted.
The IRA are reputedly out of the revenge business, but his former UDA comrades have vowed to kill him should he ever return. In turn, Adair has vowed to come back (and indeed, made a fleeting secret visit there for a documentary about a year ago). But for the moment he’s exiled in Scotland, like a character in a Shakespearean drama.
He lived in Bolton with his wife Gina immediately after his release, but they split violently when he discovered she had taken a young lover. Mad Dog now lives in Troon with his son.
“I like it here in Troon,” he tells me. “The people here warm to me and respect me. It’s 70 percent Prod here. It used to be famous for its golf courses. Now it’s famous for golf – and Johnny Adair!”
Why not go somewhere warmer? Like Jamaica?
“The reason why I came to Scotland is because it’s not a million miles away from home, and I feel at home when I’m here. Scotland is just like home back home minus the bullyboys and the thugs.”
There’s something uncharmingly oblivious about him. The bullyboys and thugs on the streets of Belfast were mostly his friends and comrades – at least in the Protestant areas. Besides, not everybody in Troon has warmed to him. In Belfast, he had problems with republicans. Here, it’s with publicans. He’s been barred from almost every bar in town.
“Not because of anything I did,” he explains. “The cops brought my photo into every pub and told them to bar me. But there’s one place that still serves me.”
We find a restaurant, cheap and cheerful looking. The waitress obligingly turns down the music to facilitate the recording of the interview. Graham and Truesdale sit at the adjoining table. Adair orders a steak and a shandy. He removes his jacket, revealing heavily tattooed arms, and his cap, revealing a shaven head. His arms are strong, but not quite as beefy looking as they were when he was taking steroids and flexing his pecs on the news.
The tattoos are amateurish, mostly done in green ink... Mickey Mouse, ‘UFF’, ‘Gina Forever’, ‘Mum & Dad’, etc. Were they done in prison?
“Ach, these are all just silly wee tattoos that I got done when I was 13 or 14,” he explains. “The age of consent for tattoos was 18, so there was a tattooist in Coleraine who used to do underage tattoos for kids of 13 and 14, and we thought it was a macho thing to do. They’re all pathetic. I’ll have to get them covered.”
We’re meeting to talk about his autobiography Mad Dog. Although the book came out six weeks ago, this is only his second interview with a journalist from the Republic (the Sunday Tribune’s Suzanne Breen met him – in exactly the same circumstances and location – a few weeks back).
He wishes he’d done more. He was supposed to do The Late Late Show, and they insisted on a press embargo before cancelling him – twice.
He’s not happy with them. It’s caused him a lot of unnecessary hassle. “For me to get over there to Dublin, it had to be a whole military operation. With hired cars and safe houses and minders. So we organised all that, and then they pulled the plug. Then they raised it again so we put a new plan in place – and then they pulled it again. So fuck them! They shouldn’t have fucking asked me to do something and then pulled the plug at the last minute.”
He’d be happy to do it if they asked him again. After all, he has a book to sell. Ghost written by journalist Graham McKendry, you could argue that Mad Dog has more holes in it than Troon’s golf courses. In fairness, this is out of legal necessity. As commander of the UDA’s C-Company, Adair was allegedly responsible for the murders of 43 Catholics. Needless to say, he doesn’t admit to one of them anywhere in the book’s 257 pages. Claiming credit whilst denying responsibility is a tough one to pull off. Mad Dog doesn’t quite do it.
Johnny was born and raised on the Shankill Road. He was fighting Catholics from his early teens. As he grew older, he graduated to a higher level of confrontation. Eventually, he was sentenced to 16 years for directing terrorism. Shortly after he got out of prison, he was run out of town. C’est tout!
What prompted you to write this book?
“Well, the main reason being that there’s been a number of books written about me, but not by me. By ex-lovers, retired police officers or whoever. And indeed many books written about the past conflict in Northern Ireland have featured me prominently in them. So obviously people were exploiting my name and, in doing so, making money at my expense.
“I’ve been pestered for years by publishers to do my own autobiography and I always declined, but since I’m now living a normal life, and there’s peace in Northern Ireland, and the fact that people have continued to exploit my name, I thought, ‘Why not write my own book in my own words?’ You know, a book by me and in my own words, and not other people’s half-lies and truths, which has happened in the past.”
But your own book is full of half-truths!
He shrugs: “This is my autobiography, which is as close to the truth as I legally can go. Although it’s a rather watered-down version of my life, I think it’s a good-enough book. Most of the people that has read it have said that it’s a good read. I’m happy with it. It’s my words and people can judge for themselves.”
Is there not a law against people like you making money from their criminal pasts?
He smiles. “Well, they’re trying to bring in a law to prevent people like myself making money from their memoirs. But obviously it hasn’t come in yet.”
It’s rumoured he received £100,000 from John Blake Publishers. What kind of advance did you get?
“I don’t really wanna talk about that. That’s personal. That’s private. Do you know what I mean? I don’t think it’s the right thing for me to do – to discuss my finances with journalists.”
Is your new life a bit of a comedown?
“Financially? Well, first, I was never a rich person. Had I wanted to be rich back home, I could’ve been. But money was never my motivation. Military was. And when you look back at some of the loyalist paramilitary leaders – or so-called leaders – they’re all rich people because they were money-motivated. Johnny Adair was never money motivated. Johnny Adair spent his time on the battlefield, directing the activities of his company against the enemies of Ulster.”
He tells me that he was always a natural born leader, even when he was a kid. “I was always a person that stood out. I was always charismatic. I was always up for a laugh and humorous. I was always diving in at the deep end.”
As a teenager, he was a proud skinhead, and fronted a four-piece band called Offensive Weapon. However, although he was a card-carrying member of the National Front, he insists he was never a racist.
“I became a skinhead and got involved in everything that surrounded that. The politics of it was National Front, but it meant nothing to me. There was no blacks in Belfast at that time so, because the National Front weren’t into the IRA, it was just another way of me attacking the IRA, through the skinhead movement.
“We formed a four-piece punk band. We mainly played Skrewdriver covers, but we had a few original songs like ‘Gestapo RUC’ and ‘We Killed Your Kid With A Plastic Bullet’. Hundreds of skinheads used to come to hear us play. We were totally crap but it was always a buzz playing gigs. It made us feel important and popular. We loved it, while it lasted.”
Who are you listening to these days?
“I’m not really into music these days, but I was passionate about it years ago. I used to always read Hot Press, back when it was like a newspaper. Nowadays I’d buy the odd Snow Patrol or Oasis album, but I’m not as passionate about music now.”
His relationship with the music industry has been fraught. Legend has it that Tina Turner’s record company got in touch back in the 1990s to ask him would he please stop using her song ‘Simply The Best’ to advertise his murderous brigade.
He laughs as he tells the story. “What used to happen when UFF C-Company did a show of strength – that means hooded men coming out reading statements – before they’d come out, we’d have a function. And prior to them coming out, we’d blast Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’ for about a minute-and-a-half, and the next thing the hooded men would come out and the crowd would just be in uproar.
“So the music industry must have heard about this, because somebody from Tina Turner’s record company rang our offices – which at that time was the UDP offices on the Shankill – and asked would C-Company, and especially that man Mad Dog Adair, kindly refrain from using Tina’s song as their anthem for displaying guns and what have you. Ha, ha!”
It wasn’t just the music industry that wasn’t happy. Companies would almost pay him not to endorse their products.
“Nike phoned up one time,” he recalls. “Because I was always in the public domain and after training I’d have been wearing my Nike training gear. And again they phoned up the UDP offices and asked would Mad Dog Adair stop wearing their clothes. I said, ‘Fuck ‘em – phone them back and tell them they should be paying me for wearing them!’
“But even now, if I wear anything, it has an effect. I like the Replay brand of clothes. And when I’m doing interviews and getting photos taken, sometimes I’ll be wearing Replay. And in that documentary I did, I’m wearing Replay too. And the guy who owns the Replay shop in Belfast was saying to a pal of mine, ‘Fuck’s sake! The documentary was good and bad for us. After the documentary, most of the Prods are coming in and they’re buying Replay. But the Catholics won’t come in and buy the stuff because that bastard Johnny Adair wears them!’ It’s funny.
“But that’s just the way Belfast is – it’s sick, it’s stupid and crazy, where people think, ‘Johnny Mad Dog Adair wears Replay and the Catholics go, ‘fuck – I’m not wearing that so!’ But the Prods go, ‘I’m wearing it because Johnny’s wearing it!’”
Does he have any regrets about the way his life has turned out?
“Well, to be honest, I regret the fact that a conflict ever took place, and I regret the fact that it lasted for 29 years and almost 4,000 people lost their lives. But id did happen. It was a conflict. It’s just a pity that Mr. Adams and Mr. Paisley didn’t do what they’re about to do now in 1969. Had they done that, there wouldn’t have been all the blood and guts spilt everywhere.
“But for me to say I regret stuff... To be honest with you, I was over 21, I knew what I was doing and I took the oath – I swore an oath to the organisation – and for me to sit here now and say I regret it would make me a hypocrite. I regret the fact that my own people – my old so-called friends and comrades – put me out, and it wasn’t the IRA that put me out. Well, they didn’t actually put me out – I was in prison – but they put me family out. I hate the fact that my own people that I would’ve died for actually backstabbed me for 30 pieces of silver.”
Are you not worried that they’ll send someone to kill you now?
“I never did worry,” he shrugs. “I never worried about the IRA. And the IRA was the most dedicated and ruthless fucking guerrilla organisation in the world. There’s no doubt about that. I didn’t fear anybody. At one time I was top of their hit list, and I didn’t fear them. I never ran to Scotland or England or some other part of the world because they tried to kill me. I never feared death then, and I don’t fear it now.
“I live normally now, but obviously when I lived in Belfast, I had to wear body armour, I had to have minders and I had to live in a virtual fortress because the IRA was constantly targeting me. But here – the IRA aren’t gonna target me. And the loyalist paramilitaries who say they’re gonna kill me, I don’t believe they’re gonna come here and try. So I don’t feel that I have to live in fear.”
It’s been four years since he was forced to leave Belfast. He’s still confident that he’ll be able to return someday. Indeed, his autobiography ends with the Terminator-esque line, “Make no mistake: I will be back.”
There have been 15 attempts on his life over the years, and he’s survived them all. He proudly shows me the scar from a bullet in the back of his head. In April, 1999, he was on overnight release from the Maze Prison and went to a UB40 concert. Someone shot him at point blank range. Amazingly, he lived.
“I believe in God, but I don’t practise it,” he says. “The reason I believe that there is a God is because of the person I’ve been and the many times I’ve been saved. And the things that have happened in my life. People say that God works in mysterious ways. I believe you can be lucky once or twice, but I’ve survived 15 attempts on my life – and that’s just publicly, the ones that we know of, there could have been more. I’ve survived every one of them. Shot at point blank range to my head, and I survived.”
What do you think you’ve done to deserve that?
“To deserve getting shot?”
No, to deserve surviving getting shot?
“Well, my time’s not up,” he shrugs. “Maybe I’m here for a reason. Maybe He’s got something for me to do.”
Time for the yawnsome million dollar question – has Johnny Adair ever pulled the trigger on someone himself?
“Well, ask a silly question, you’ll get a silly answer,” he smiles. “Have I ever killed anyone? No. I have been arrested and questioned at length back home in Northern Ireland about countless murders. Obviously there was no evidence and obviously I denied them. So for you to sit and ask me... there was never any evidence.”
How did you wind up commanding C-Company then? Surely you can’t lead killers without being one yourself?
“I was directing terrorism.”
Surely that means you were killing people?
“No, I was directing my men at terrorists – going after terrorists and chasing them.”
And then killing them?
“No, chasing them. Nine times out of 10 you couldn’t get into these IRA men’s houses because they’d got steel grills.”
Did you ever kill any of them personally?
“No, I didn’t kill anybody.”
Did your men kill them?
“Well, I never sent anyone to kill anyone.”
So what do you mean by directing terrorism?
“I just meant doing what the British Army and American soldiers are doing now in Iraq. Defending and protecting the community and the people from the enemies of Ulster.”
He seems proud of his achievements as a leader. “I adopted the tactics of the IRA. Taking over houses. Getting sophisticated weaponry like AK47s. They were Northern Irish people with the same education as us. They weren’t smarter than us. The only difference was what it said on our birth certs. Theirs said ‘RC’, ours said ‘Presbyterian’. But I done what they were doing to us – and it worked.”
Have you ever read The Art of War?
He looks at me blankly. “No, I just learned from the street.”
But, to clarify, you haven’t ever killed anyone?
Yet you’re posing with a gun on the cover of your book ...
“It’s only a replica,” he laughs. “I’ll decommission it if you want.”
He’s been interrogated many times before, by interviewers far tougher than me. “The toughest ones would have been in the early days in Castlereagh when I was about 18. They would’ve physically assaulted me. Nathin’ serious – a slap on the mouth, hair pulled, shook with a chair and yelled and bawled at. But in more recent times, once I became toughened from the place, it was just easy. Mickey Mouse! Cops would try and be aggressive and I’d go, ‘Fuck off, you dickhead, I’m not speaking to you!’ And I’d embarrass them.”
You mentioned Iraq earlier. Do you agree with the invasion?
“Ah, it’s crazy, it’s just gone too far. It’s probably a mirror image of what happened back home in Belfast in 1969, when the soldiers came in. They thought they were there for a short time and 29 years later they were still there. And thousands of people were killed. Obviously Iraq is on a far greater scale. Just recently there was 140 people killed in one day. That’s pathetic and it’s sad – and it’ll continue to go on. I don’t know what the solution is. Pull out or stay on another five, 10, 15, 20 years. Could be a million people dead. I don’t know. It’s politics – and it’s up to the politicians to sort it out.”
We both go outside for a smoke, not really saying much, like prizefighters taking a break between rounds. He mentions that he’s happy enough with the way the interview is going. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Two minutes later, we’re back sitting at the table.
Recently it was reported that you’d travelled over to Uganda to help build an orphanage that’s going to be named after C-Company. What’s the story there?
“This German guy, Nick, had written a book and he got paid E40,000 for the rights to it by some TV company in Germany. And he promised that he would build an orphanage for underprivileged children in Uganda, and he said he would name it after C-Company.”
He’s a Neo-Nazi, isn’t he?
“No, he’s reformed. He’s a one-time Neo-Nazi. He was what he was and then obviously he realised that what he was doing was wrong. And what he’s done is he’s married a black girl out there.
“It’s good that people like him who was what he was – at one time he was a Neo-Nazi and against blacks, and now he’s out there helping the poor. They’re all blacks and he’s paying for them to have a better future and a better education.”
Such philanthropic activities might seem a little at odds with Adair’s public image, but he sees himself as something of a Robin Hood figure.
“Well, I was a good man to my own community,” he shrugs. “I gave money to old dolls and poor families and the handicapped and stuff. That’s why I got support and respect.”
Is it true that you were making that money from selling Class-A drugs to the local kids?
He scowls darkly at the suggestion. “I’ve never been arrested for drugs in my life, never had my home searched for drugs in my life in all my time and all my career as a paramilitary directing terrorism. However, there’s been countless stories written about me that I was a drug dealer. I never took drugs.”
You took steroids...
“Did I take steroids? Yes, I did. But nathin’ else.”
What about ecstasy?
“I took ecstasy in the early ‘90s, but have I taken drugs since that? No, absolutely not. I took steroids when I was bodybuilding, but the only drug I ever took was ecstasy in the early ‘90s, when it was a big thing.”
What about acid?
“I took acid, but that’s what actually put me off drugs because I’d a bad trip. And that was actually in the Maze. I took a microdot, and I had all these posters of Cindy Crawford in my cell, and I thought she was attacking me. I was fuckin’ fightin’ Cindy Crawford going ‘Fuck off!’ Ha, ha! So that put me off acid.”
In fairness, you must have a lot of demons.
“If you’re talking about demons and asking has your past ever caught up on ye, I’ve never ever had a sleepless night. I’ve had the odd bad dream, but not about anything like that. Not about anything that I’ve... not about anything that you might think I’ve done that was wrong and cruel. Never. But that might be because I believed in what I was doing. If you accept in your heart and your head what you’re doing and you believe in it, well, then, it’s not like you’re going out to rob an old doll or going out to rape someone. That’s wrong. But if you feel that you’re a soldier and you’re doing the actions of a soldier, it won’t affect you mentally.”
Your former lover Jackie ‘Legs’ Robinson’s book In Love With A Mad Dog is full of stories about wild drug parties that you and your men used to throw...
“She’s a fucking header, that girl!” he guffaws. “Jackie was a lunatic. Jackie was a fatal attraction. I shagged her a couple of times, that was it. All of this shit about going out with me for nine years and mad parties in her house, she’s a liar.She’s just a total liar. A maniac, who could never get her way. But don’t get me wrong. She did fall in love with me. But I was with my wife and kids. And she felt that because she fell in love with me that I had to love her. I never loved her. She was just another groupie.”
Does Johnny Adair get a lot of groupies?
“I’ve shagged over 1,000 women in my whole life and I’m only 43. And that’s a fact. Isn’t it, Ian?”
Sitting across the table, Truesdale agrees. “I could tell you some stories about Johnny,” he laughs. “Oh Johnny and the women... ”
Have you shagged many Catholic women?
“I have indeed,” Adair beams.
Was that not sleeping with the enemy?
“Ach, but the war’s over. I actually slept with the enemy during the conflict – some of my enemy’s wives. And that’s where a lot of the information would have come from. But we don’t wanna go down that road.”
Ach, we do...
“No. I don’t want to get somebody in trouble. But I’ve shagged a lot of women.”
This may well be true. However, fellow loyalist terrorist Michael Stone calls Adair “the pink paramilitary,” and alleges he’s actually having a homosexual affair with former C-Company volunteer Skelly McCrory (who also lives in Scotland).
There’s no easy way to put this to Mad Dog. So I just say it out straight – Michael Stone reckons you’re gay as Christmas ...
Adair laughs loudly. “Stoner? Ha! Let me tell you about him. He was my hero, obviously, and when I got locked up I got to know his personality. Stoner thought he was better than everybody. He thought he was the only loyalist prisoner worth anything. There was better men than him there! And he condemned a comrade of mine, who was in for a minor offence – he was only doing five years. But this guy had done the business umpteen times. Unknown to Michael Stone, but I knew. And Stone thought that because he was only serving five years for a minor offence that he was a prick.
“He tried to humiliate the guy, so I got Stone in the yard and I walked him around and said, ‘Michael, see that guy there. He may be only in for five years. But if what he’s done had been caught on camera, it’d make you look like a fucking tea-boy! The only reason you looked so good, Michael, is because it was caught on camera.’ [Stone carried out an infamous attack on an IRA funeral – OT].
“No disrespect. He admitted six murders – he done three of them in the graveyard, but the other three he didn’t. I dunno what that was all about.”
You’re still not answering the question, Johnny. Are you gay?
“Look, me and him were still pals when I got out of the Maze in 2000. Obviously there’s Johnny Adair groupies and people who want to shag me just because I’m Johnny Adair. And there was this wee pole dancer. She didn’t go out with Stone or nathin’, but I shagged her a couple of times. And then a couple of months after me sleeping with her, she fell for Stoner and they became partners. So she told him she’d slept with Johnny Adair. And he’s a jealous person so obviously that hurt him.
“He was so jealous that I’d slept with the wee girl that he came up with this story that Johnny Adair was gay to ruin my credibility. That’s where all that shit came from.”
What about all that time you spent in jail with no female company?
“We did have women!” he insists. “We had anything in that jail. I had girls coming up to visit all the time. One girl in particular, a good big girl – Big Lily. She’d come in wearing a big coat, and look like she was fully dressed, but once I’d get her in the cubicle she’d open it and she’d only have suspenders on. We used to shag every visit. We used to have box cubicles that the screws couldn’t actually see into. So we had proper sex, took our clothes off and all. It wasn’t just quick sex.”
So you’ve never had a gay experience?
“Well, Skelly was gay, my best friend, and that was no big secret that he was gay. But because he’s my best friend, Stoner said we were lovers.”
And, just to set the record straight, you’re saying that you’re not?
“No, no, no, no.”
Truesdale vouches for him across the table. “I’ve known Johnny for 30 years and there’s no way he’s gay. No way!”
Mad Dog looks a little flustered now: “I don’t really want to say this on tape because I don’t want people thinking I’m big-headed, but anybody close to me will tell you that there’s no one individual – outside a porn star – that has shagged as many women as me.”
The late David Ervine said that when he went into jail, he chose to spend his time learning Irish rather than engage in the usual loyalist prisoner antics – basically, taking drugs and shagging the arses off each other.
“We weren’t shagging each other!” he insists “Well, he’s right to an extent. They weren’t like the republicans. The republicans educated themselves. Once you’re in jail, you can choose to educate yourself mentally or physically. I chose physically. I went in there 10-and-a-half stone and came out 13-and-a-half stone of solid muscle after four or five years. But a lot of the loyalists took drugs, had parties and spent their time just having fun. The way I looked at it, these were guys who gave up their freedom for a fucking cause. So they’re stuck in jail, and maybe some of them are losing their wives or their girlfriends. So so what – if they wanna have a ball, let them have a ball.
“When I was in charge in the Maze, I just let them do what they wanted to do. Though, I’d draw the line if things got out of hand.”
He was still considered a leader in prison, influential enough for the government to talk to him. He tells me he met Mo Mowlam twice. “She was just like one of the lads, we respected her.”
Amazingly, despite the fact that Belfast’s a small city, Adair has never laid eyes on Gerry Adams. “I’ve never seen him,” he admits. “But I targeted him a few times, like.”
A few years back, Gerry Adams told me that he’d been blessed with “very bad assassins”.
Adair looks a bit miffed at this: “Well, the UFF tried to kill him in 1983. They failed, but fair play to them for trying. And then C-Company attacked his house in the early ‘90s. And he wasn’t there. But we still got to where he lived.”
He tells me that a lot of work used to go into targeting someone of Adam’s stature. “There’d be weeks and weeks of careful planning, gathering information, following, watching. Sometimes it would take months.”
“The men are only as good as their leader and the leader’s only as good as his men. If I’d become weak then they’d have become weak. I was a great leader.”
And behind every great man there’s a great woman.
“Gina was a good woman, absolutely. But obviously we’re not together now. We’ve split and there’s another man involved [Wayne Dowie, a former associate of Adair’s] and that’s why I ended up leaving her. She was a good woman. I was with her for 25 years and had four lovely kids with her. But obviously I was not a one-woman man and she wasn’t a one-man woman either. You couldn’t blame her, because of what I’d been doing and how many times I’d been caught. And it was never-ending with me because of who I was. Just groupie after groupie after groupie. You couldn’t hide them all.”
Did you ever catch an STD?
“I’ve never caught a sexual disease in my life, and I’ve shagged over a thousand women. Never in my life.”
Ah come on, Johnny! You must have! I’ve only shagged about 800 and I’ve caught everything going!
He looks blankly for a moment and then bursts out laughing when he realises I’m winding him up. “Ha, ha! No, seriously, I’ve never caught anything. Even when I was a teenager, I always had more girls than anyone else.”
What age were you when you lost your virginity?
”Fuck, about 15 or 16. Even from them early years, because I was always the centre of attention, girls were always throwing themselves at me. Right up until the present time now. More so now.”
Do you have a girlfriend at the moment?
“Fuck, about 20. I had a semi-relationship there, but I’m not seeing her now, so I’m young, free and single. Or old, free and single. Ha, ha! No, I just shag all around. That’s what my life’s about – just shagging. Isn’t it, Ian?”
“Oh aye,” Truesdale nods enthusiastically.
“I went to Africa last week for seven days,” Adair continues, “and in those seven days, I shagged eight women. Eight black girls, and they were all beautiful. They were all honeys. People can’t believe it, but, you see, when you have charisma... [snaps fingers].”
Did you use protection?
“Oh, every time. Oh fuck! Over there? Absolutely! But they took me to a rugby game on the Saturday afternoon and I just... [snaps fingers]. You see, if you have it... [snaps fingers]! We were just standing there and these two birds were beside us. I turned around to them. Within two minutes, I was away with the two girls. Fuck the rugby match!”
For some reason, all this talk of rampant sex brings Kevin Myers to mind. I ask has he read Myers’ book about his own time reporting on the conflict.
“Ach, I don’t really read books,” he says. “I’ve never heard of him.”
Well, Myers’ book reflected a little on the connection between sex and death in Northern Ireland...
“I dunno about that,” he shrugs. “I hate death, but I love fucking sex. So that’s my opinion of it.”
According to Adair’s own book, there was a lot of collusion between the security forces and C-Company. Does he think there could have been collusion in the 1974 Dublin bombings?
“I wouldn’t have been aware at that time. I was only a kid then.”
But would you be surprised if you heard that there was?
“I can’t comment on that, because I don’t know the facts surrounding it. But what I do know is, was there collusion in certain murders in Belfast? Well, take, for instance, Pat Finucane. To date, five of the people involved have been publicly named as agents and also by the UDA. So was it happening? Of course it was. Did I have friendly police officers sympathising with me, let’s say? Yes, there was. So I wouldn’t be surprised if there had been collusion in 1974. But that’s war for you. It was a dirty war.”
And dirty wars call for dirty deeds. In all sorts of ways. A few years back, Adair’s son was shot in the legs in Belfast for alleged drug-dealing. Rumour has it that it was done on his father’s orders.
Is it true that you had Jonathan shot?
Well, that was the word on the street...
He looks annoyed now: “Where’s the proof of that? You’re a journalist, right? And many journalists has writ this, right? I’m saying to you, I didn’t. And I’m sure if you asked my son, he’ll tell you what he told the police.”
What did he tell the police?
“The story goes that he was shot by hooded men or something. They pulled him in and he got shot.”
Did you not find the guys who’d shot him?
“I made enquiries as to find out who done it and why they done it. But I couldn’t really get to the bottom of it.”
But I thought you ruled the streets. Surely you could’ve found out?
Mad Dog glares at me. Gulp!
So it wasn’t that you wanted to demonstrate to your volunteers that even your own son wasn’t immune to your law.
You know, it’s very strange interviewing you, Johnny, because we both know that you’re playing around with the truth a lot.
“If you ask me a question, I’ll give you an answer,” he says. “If you don’t like my answer, there’s nathin’ I can do about that. I’m not gonna lie, I’m not gonna turn and around and say... ”
Well, I just don’t believe a lot of what you’re telling me!
“Well, if you don’t believe it then you just have to write that. I’m trying to be as honest as possible.”
What’s the worst thing that’s ever been written about you?
“I don’t like the fact that they called me a tout. Two things I most definitely amn’t – one is gay and the second one is a tout. They called me a tout in the Sunday World... ”
And Jackie called you a tout in her book.
“She called me a tout?”
Well, she hinted at it, saying that she felt that sometimes you protested about them a little too much ...
Now, he’s pissed: “I hated touts. One thing, hand on my heart, they tried to put me under pressure, they tried to put people around me under pressure, but I’d never take 30 pieces of silver. Never. I was always rooting touts out. I hated them. They were my biggest enemy – the threat from within.”
He’s not called Mad Dog for no reason. It’s said that you have an explosive temper...
“I would have, but you’d have to have one to be a leader. You can’t be a softie. You have to have balls and brains. It’s no use having balls and no brains, and it’s no use having brains and no balls. It won’t work. You have to have both. I’d both. I wasn’t scared to get involved directly. And I’ve got brains. Do you understand what I mean?”
I thought you weren’t involved directly?
“I was involved directly... in the past... directing terrorism. I’m saying I was directly involved in military operations. That’s not saying I killed anybody.”
When’s the last time you threw a punch?
He looks over at Truesdale and grins. “Bolton – Fat Bollix. About a year-and-a-half ago.”
Who’s Fat Bollix?
“Ach, just some bastard.”
Not your wife, then?
You got done for assaulting Gina in Bolton, didn’t you?
“Oh sorry, yeah. Well, that wasn’t a punch. That was a scuffle. She attacked me and obviously I defended myself.”
Did you have that kind of relationship over the years?
“Ach, Gina was like myself. She’s a tough nut – a tough, tough woman. She was taunting me about this other guy. And obviously I didn’t bite, because it was something that I suspected but I couldn’t prove. And she was drunk and I was drunk. And when she saw I wasn’t biting, she just laid into me. And I was the one that was assaulted, I was the one that had marks. There wasn’t a mark on Gina. And because of who I was... ”
I thought her hair had been pulled out of her head?
It was in your book!
“It was not in my book [actually, checking later, his book says that the arresting officers made that claim – OT]. She didn’t have her hair pulled out. That was written in the media. The police came. I was drunk, Gina was drunk. Boom! The police automatically arrested me, took me, and charged me with assault. There was eight lacerations and scrapes and scratches all around my face. There wasn’t one on Gina. All this stuff about me dragging her up a fucking park and kicking the fuck out of her, all that’s nonsense. She’ll tell you herself. But because of who I was, I couldn’t stand up in court and say, ‘Here – this is wrong, it was Gina!’”
Do you hope to live to an old age, Johnny?
“If I thought about that, it would worry me. It would probably frighten me. But I can’t think like that. I just think, well, I’m alive now, I’m 43 and I look good for it and I feel good for it, and I’m still shagging 17-, 18- and 19-year-old wee girls. So not bad for a man of 43. I don’t have a double chin, I don’t have a big fat belly, I’m fit for my age. I can go four or five hours in bed with a wee girl of 20. So I put most of the fucking ones my age to shame. I just have a ball. Live life to the full. And keep those 20-year-olds coming! Ha, ha!”
Time’s up, thank be to fuck. The waitress brings over the bill, and Adair insists on paying. He’s reported to be living on the dole at the moment. He tells me that he’s actually living on his wits (later we’ll pay Truesdale £100 for his taxi services, and he’ll give us a handwritten receipt for ‘Security’).
Graham needs to take some shots. He suggests the seafront. We all troop out to the Vauxhall and Truesdale drives us round to the prom. It’s a wet, foggy, miserable day.
Adair is extremely comfortable in front of the camera, and already knows all his best angles. “Ach, I’ve been doing this for years,” he laughs, as Graham directs him. “From the early ‘90s, I was doing this kind of shite everyday. I’m well used to it.”
We walk down onto the rocky beach, getting soaked in the process. Watching him proudly pose, it strikes me that Johnny Adair’s really a bit of a dinosaur. The war’s over and he’s certainly not needed anymore. He’s an anachronism, a foot soldier well past his date of usefulness.
Does he realise this? Probably not. As he stands on the rocks in front of the dark, frothing sea, I ask him to hold up a peace sign. He raises two fingers in a V. Graham takes the shot, but asks him to do it again.
Recalcitrant to the last, Johnny Adair closes them together, points them like a gun, laughs like a mad dog, and shoots back: “Bang!”