The former terror chief who ran the UDA in London has said he was "seriously glad" that he was busted with weapons and sent to jail.
Ex-UDA 'commander' Frank Portinari claimed that at one stage when he was a loyalist paramilitary, he "wouldn't have thought twice" about throwing a hand grenade into Irish social clubs.
Portinari (62) was a football hooligan and National Front member when he joined the UDA but said he was "thoroughly unimpressed" when he first met with the then London leader who he said "stunk of vodka".
After taking over as the organisation's top man in the English capital, he became involved in gun-running operations but was sentenced to five years after being caught in 1994.
Co-accused James McCrudden from Belfast, who would now be 59, was given 30 months after undercover cops moved in as Portinari handed seven guns, including revolvers and semi-automatic pistols and about 240 rounds of ammunition, to McCrudden in a pub car park.
Portinari said: "It took a while to dawn on me what life was like, whichever side you was on. The pressure that people were under. I've got no doubt in my mind, if I'd have lived in Belfast I'd have ended up dead or doing life.
"And I'm quite open about this, I'm glad I got caught. I'm seriously, seriously glad I got caught.
"Because when I first got arrested I was on Cat A in Winson Green (prison) in Birmingham, and my first visit with my wife was behind a screen.
"So my daughters were sitting there. You can't hold their hand, you can't comfort them, they're crying their eyes out. You're like a raging lunatic."
But Portinari also said that at the height of his leadership of London activity for the UDA, that he was ready for an armed assault on targets.
He said: "I'd made a commitment, I took an oath. I took it quite serious. The trouble is, for want of a better way of putting it, your targets become wider. Because now it's like, well who's eligible for this? It might start off where you'd say, anyone that supplies weapons to them. Anyone that supplies information to them. Then it becomes anyone who sells their papers outside train stations. Anyone that goes on their parades.
"You become less discerning about who you want to do harm to.
"And there was a time that we met someone who we think was trying to sell us hand grenades and we actually had an army friend go along and verify that they were legitimate.
"Let's say we got one box of these hand grenades. What the f*** would we have done with them? What havoc would we have caused? I make no bones about it, the Camden Irish Centre, Kilburn - these are Irish centres that had fundraisers - do you think at that time I'd have had any qualms about walking in there and throwing a grenade in it? I wouldn't have done. I wouldn't have thought twice. It's a horrible thing to say now, I wouldn't have thought twice about it."
Portinari also revealed he was approached a number of times by Special Branch after his release from prison. He added: "They came round the house and offered me money to work for them and buy weapons as long as the weapons didn't get into the hands of people who might actually use them."