Northern Ireland news

Secret British army unit saved the life of Johnny Adair

The Joint Communications Unit - Northern Ireland saved the live of former UDA leader Johnny Adair
Connla Young

British intelligence stepped in to stop a loyalist hit squad from killing former UDA leader Johnny Adair but would have let it go ahead only there was a risk to his daughter.

The assignation plot was hatched at the height of loyalist infighting in 2002 after the UDA’s leadership moved to oust the Shankill Road based commander from the organisation.

Seán Hartnett claims that his unit was called in after it emerged that the UDA planned to kill Adair as he walked his eight-year-old daughter to school.

He also revealed that had Adair been with his former wife Gina and son Jonathan, who died last week after a suspected drugs overdose, instead of his young daughter his unit may not have stepped in.

He writes: “Word came down that the risk to the little girl and her schoolmates was unacceptable and so East Det was instructed to intervene.

“Had it been Adair’s son Jonathan or even his wife Gina at risk, there probably would not have been an intervention…..

“Even with the risk to an eight-year-old girl, some people were still very uncomfortable with the idea of an operation to save Adair.”

According to the former soldier, the security forces learned of the plan through a listening device left in the home of a top UDA commander.

He claims that the information was so accurate authorities knew the exact time and place the hit squad planned to strike.

Hartnett reveals that after examining and ruling out several options, including “neutralising the assassins”, it was decided to set up a “controlled crash” using a van to collide with the motorcycle the hit team were travelling on.

After being knocked off their motorcycle the would-be killers made good their escape.

Hartnett said that after the Adair operation suspicions remained over the reason why the security forces wanted to save Adair’s life.

He said: “The explanation for protecting him – not wanting to risk the young girl’s life – was questioned. We all knew – and it had been demonstrated on numerous occasions down the years – that British Intelligence didn’t give a damn about collateral damage from their operations if they were deemed essential.”

He said many of his colleagues would review Adair’s removal as “essential” and believed he was protected because he worked for the state.

“Adair himself claimed he had been getting information from both British Intelligence and Special Branch on republican targets for years, and we all knew that was a two-way street,” he said.

“It was suspected by all at East Det that Adair must surely have also been providing information on his own organisation to the security services.”

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