Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Ihab Shoukri: From brigadier to outcast... the loyalist thug who worshipped money

Ihab Shoukri

Ihab Shoukri was just one of many to end up on the wrong side of the loyalist lines.

He fits into that category alongside Johnny Adair, Jim Gray, John White, Billy Wright, Andre Shoukri, Mark Haddock and so many others like them.

All climbed to high rank in the various loyalist organisations, and all ended up on the losing side in different feuds and battles.

It is the way of the loyalist world — a place of competing individuals, organisations, interests and egos.

Some are dead, some in jail and others in exile.

Ihab Shoukri, like his brother Andre, once held the rank of “brigadier”, the highest position in the UDA.

And like others of that position, including Adair and Gray, they were ousted in the loyalist infighting of the post-ceasefire years.

Andre Shoukri is in jail and his brother Ihab is now dead.

What was his war, his mission? He never fought the IRA or defended Ulster.

In the peace process years, I have defined the battle within loyalism as a fight for its destiny, a fight between “cause” and “criminal” loyalists.

Ihab Shoukri and his brother Andre fitted into that latter category. Their stories are told in the words of crime, drugs, extortion, bullying. They preyed on their communities, living on money that was never earned.

“He (Ihab Shoukri) was viewed in loyalism as a criminal, nothing more than a criminal,” one loyalist commented.

“Money was his God,” he added, comparing him to the murdered east Belfast UDA leader Jim Gray.

His name was “equally bad”, the source said.

And that is how you fall in that loyalist world — a “brigadier” one

day, a criminal and outcast the next.

There are those who would try to tell you that there is a “good UDA” and a “bad UDA”.

But those in the security and intelligence worlds who read the organisation best know that criminal activity, at different levels, can still be found throughout that organisation and in its six so-called brigade areas.

Gray and Shoukri were more obvious than some of the others — less discreet; their lives lived in the newspaper headlines.

Inside the UDA in Belfast, Adair is said to have “elevated” the Shoukris.

Of that three one is dead, one in prison and the other hiding in Scotland — forced out of Belfast’s Shankill Road.

For all the rank they once held, that is how they will be remembered, as men who ended up on different losing sides, just some of the loyalist outcasts.

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