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Ex-UDA boss Adrian ‘Aidy’ Bird loses press complaint against Sunday Life

No breach in branding Aidy Bird a former leader of terror gang


Adrian 'Aidy' Bird

Adrian 'Aidy' Bird

Adrian 'Aidy' Bird

Ex-UDA boss Adrian ‘Aidy’ Bird has lost a press complaint against Sunday Life after we named him as a one-time leading figure in the terror gang.

Bird took a case to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) after he featured in an article about the Police Ombudsman’s report which examined the Ormeau Road bookmakers massacre.

This newspaper reported he was involved with the government-funded charity which employed Denis Paisley, a man who featured heavily in the report under a cipher.

Paisley, who is the son of an RUC officer and is referred to as the cipher ‘ZZ’ in the Operation Achille document, was caught in May 1992 with the Browning 9mm pistol used in the attack.

This was three months after the slaughter that left five people dead, including 15-year-old James Kennedy, and seven wounded.

There is no suggestion Paisley used the gun, but he was jailed for seven years for possessing the weapon.

We reported that Bird is employed by The Resurgam Trust, where Paisley also works, and identified him as “ex-UDA leader Aidy Bird”.

Bird lodged a complaint with Ipso accusing Sunday Life of inaccuracy, as he denied ever being a member of the UDA and stated he had never been convicted of membership of the organisation.

In its ruling published last week, Ipso stated: “He (Bird) said that his leadership roles in peace-building and conflict transformation had led to a small number of journalists labelling him as a former UDA leader in previous press articles.”

It also said Bird had “never made a complaint to Ipso or its predecessor, the Press Complaints Commission, about the articles”.

“He did, however, provide correspondence from his solicitors in 2010 concerning alleged inaccuracies in a different newspaper addressed to its editor,” it said.

“The correspondence did not detail specific inaccuracies, but rather complained about inaccuracies in general. He also said that he had met and challenged this editor, which resulted in the papers not ‘attacking’ him for a period of time.”

But Ipso acknowledged this newspaper had provided numerous articles and references to Bird as a UDA figure published over the course of 30 years.

This included pointing out that Bird served six years in the Maze prison as a UDA/UFF inmate, as described in a report from 1995.

We also highlighted a 1994 press report about the events leading up to the loyalist ceasefire of that year.

It stated the UVF and the UDA/UFF could not contemplate calling a ceasefire without consulting their prisoners in the Maze, adding: “The first vote among the UDA and UFF prisoners showed that there was great hostility to the idea and ominously the opposition was led by the organisation’s officer commanding in the Maze, Adrian ‘Aidy’ Bird.”

Ipso stated: “The publication also said that it has been widely reported that the complainant was a former UDA leader and provided examples from newspaper articles from 1989 to 2022 in which he had been referred to as a ‘UDA leader’, ‘UDA boss’, ‘UDA commander’, ‘UDA chief’, ‘former UDA prisoner who heads up Lisburn UDA’ and ‘South Belfast UDA second in command’.”

Finding in Sunday Life’s favour, Ipso said: “In this instance, where the publication had provided numerous sources, published over a considerable timespan in both newspapers and books, that described the complainant as holding a senior role in the UDA, and where previous reports remained available uncorrected, the committee was satisfied that the publication had taken sufficient care over the accuracy of the allegation that the complainant was a former leader of the UDA and there was no breach.”

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