Johnny Adair: I'm pleased Martin McGuinness is in Government
Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair - the former UDA leader and one of the most notorious paramilitaries of the Troubles - has said he is glad Martin McGuinness is in Government.
The exiled loyalist, who now lives in Scotland, was once the ruthless leader of the Lower Shankill 2nd Battalion, C Company which killed Catholic civilians in the early 1990s.
He was jailed for directing terrorism -or what he calls an armed struggle against the IRA.
But today he told the Nolan Show he is happy to see McGuinness - a former IRA commander - at the top of the Stormont Government as Deputy First Minister.
"Twenty years ago I would have seen him on TV and it turned my stomach," he said.
"I'm glad that someone like him, who was a one-time leader of the IRA, how he's changed and realised that we're getting nowhere through violence, let's try politics.
"So I'm pleased for him and I'm pleased from them all up there who's trying to sort the country out without using the gun or the bomb."
Adair was speaking to Stephen Nolan after three men were jailed for plotting to murder him.
Sinn Fein and the IRA
Commenting on the murder of republican Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast's Short Strand, Adair said he did not believe Sinn Fein would have known about the plan to kill the former IRA hitman.
"They were never going away and they won't go away," he said. "The IRA is a disciplined army and if you cross that army they will take action.
"In the future they'll probably do what was done the other week
"The IRA leadership do not need to meet and call an army council meeting to have an operation carried out where they don't want it to be seen as that it's the IRA doing it.
"Individuals will do it, they're experienced.
"I don't believe they will have went to Martin McGuinness or Gerry Adams or Alex Maskey - who took most of the flak and had to answer questions - I don't believe that the ones responsible for that went to Connolly House, sat down with them boys, had a cup of tea and said right now Gerry put this in your pipe and smoke it - we're going to whack somebody tomorrow.
"I don't believe that they would have done that. So therefore they put their political party, they put them in a sticky situation.
"So when you see Alex Maskey and other members of Sinn Fein coming on and saying it wasn't the IRA, I believe them guys are genuine."
When asked what types of structures still exist around loyalist paramilitaries, Adair said he had is still "very, very good friends" with many of them and "indeed many of their leaders".
"Now they are still intact," he said.
"They are still taking the £1.50 a week dues off the rank-and-file members. They still force them to go to dances and dos. They still sell drugs, they're trying to procure weapons.
"I'm speaking for UDA but in general it would be all loyalist paramilitaries. The UVF killed a man so too long ago for standing up for his family; Bobby Moffat.
"The UDA - they're crucifying people, nailing them to the table."
Nolan told Adair it didn't sound too dissimilar to what he did in the past.
"I never directed anything like that," he refuted.
"When I was charged with directing (terrorism), it was directing military operations - and that's what we were doing. And I have no regrets whatsoever about it Stephen."
Nolan asked: "It just comes back to that cold killer in you, Johnny, doesn't it?"
Adair said: "No it doesn't. There's peace now. I support peace, I'm of a different mindset.
"It's left in the hands of the politicians. Boys like us who was on the ground doing what we believed was right - there's no need for that now.
"That's why there should be no need for paramilitary structures. We had it for over 30 years and we suffered, everybody suffered. "
Adair said loyalist paramilitaries never stopped extorting money out of their own communities, saying "every single" building site in areas controlled by them paid protection money.
He added: "Places like Chinese takeaways pay a hefty sum every week, I know that for a fact... Between £300-500 per week."
Asked where does the money go, he replied: "Into the coiffers. There's no war machine, there's no military funding... That's how they live in luxury houses and drive luxury cars.
"But karma is a wonderful thing and karma will come back and bite them all."
Those he used to call comrades and friends he said had backstabbed him, so while he does come back to visit Northern Ireland, he wouldn't want to walk down the Shankill.
Adair said loyalists were happy now that there are no bombs or killings on a daily basis and just wanted to get on with their lives.
He said that there was only one scenario that could cause violence to erupt again: "If these dissident republicans were to hit a loyalist.
"They've killed police, they've killed soldiers, they've killed their own for being informers. They have never once attacked a loyalist, they've never once shot a loyalist or bombed a loyalist. In fact, I'm the only one they've conspired to kill.
"But I think until that, if that was to happen and I hope it doesn't, that would be the spark that lit the fire."
Belfast Telegraph Digital