Army spook's unease at saving UFF chief Adair from being shot
A former British intelligence officer has spoken out about a security force operation to save the life of notorious loyalist terrorist Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair.
Born in Cork, Sean Hartnett was stationed in Northern Ireland in 2001 working for a covert surveillance Army team, the Joint Communications Unit, also known as 'the Det'.
In his new book Charlie One, an inside look at British Intelligence in Northern Ireland, he says he's still troubled by a mission to save Adair - a drug dealer at the centre of many violent loyalist feuds - from UDA gunmen.
Hartnett claims that in Autumn 2002 a wire tap in a UDA commander's home revealed that "after years of pandering to him" some of the UDA's leading figures ordered the assassination of Adair.
Two UDA hitmen on motorbikes were allegedly ordered to carry out a drive-by shooting as Adair walked his eight-year-old daughter to school.
"Word came down that the risk to the little girl and her schoolmates was unacceptable and so the Det was instructed to intervene," said Hartnett.
"Even with the risk to a child, some people were still very uncomfortable with the idea of an operation to save Adair."
The plan was to stage a car crash, knocking the gunmen off their motorbike before they could reach their target.
As Adair left his home, an operative in the Det waited in a van for the gunmen to appear.
Quoting his operations officer, Hartnett described the heart-stopping moment the operation began.
"Standby! Standby! Charlie One is foxtrot towards the school," the operator said as Adair left his house."Standby! Standby! Motorcycle approaching, two up."
As the Det van driver began to tail the UDA hitmen Hartnett recalled "everyone was on edge".
"As the motorbike rounded the next corner he accelerated from behind and clipped the rear wheel. The bike spun out and hit the ground."
"The two men's instinct to get up and run kicked in and off they went," said Hartnett.
Suspicion followed in the Det on why "massive resources" had been spent to save Adair's life.
"We all knew that British Intelligence didn't give a damn about collateral damage from their operations if they were deemed essential," said Hartnett.
He says Adair claimed to be receiving information on republican targets from British Intelligence and RUC Special Branch for years and the arrangement was "a two way street".
Hartnett said he also suspected Adair was being protected for providing information on his own organisation to the security services.
"I have to keep telling myself it was the young girl's life we were saving - not Adair's," he said,
Adair was sentenced to 16 years in prison after becoming the first person convicted of directing terrorism and later fled to Ayrshire in Scotland in 2003 after threats to his life.
Earlier this month he said he was left "gutted" after the death of his son Jonathan Adair who died at the age of 32 after a drug overdose.