Brazen UDA boss asks for curfew to be extended for Eleventh ... then goads authorities with picture on top of NI’s biggest pyre
A South East Antrim UDA boss accused of running a major cocaine dealing enterprise has stuck two fingers up at cops by posing on the top of Northern Ireland’s biggest bonfire.
Clifford ‘Trigger’ Irons, who is out on bail charged with conspiracy to possess the drug, was pictured proudly posing on the huge structure in Larne’s loyalist Craigyhill estate which can be seen for miles.
Irons went to the high court last week to have his bail conditions altered so he can watch the 288-pallet-tall bonfire, which needed a crane to put the last remaining wood on top, being set alight tonight. The 43-year-old had been on a 9pm curfew, but this has been extended to midnight.
Loyalist sources say Irons — who is banned from entering Carrickfergus and Greenisland — insisted on being pictured on top of the Craigyhill bonfire as an “up yours” to the PSNI and National Crime Agency (NCA).
“Trigger had a hard time of it on remand in jail recently and wanted to stick two fingers up at the PSNI and NCA by posing on the bonfire,” revealed a UDA insider.
“His bail address is in Larne and he was involved in putting the last of the pallets on top. He couldn’t believe it when the judge agreed to change his bail conditions so he can stay out tonight to watch the bonfire being lit.”
When the high court freed Irons on major cocaine dealing charges last month, it ordered him to wear an electronic ankle tag and not to have any contact with his co-accused Glen Burns, David Weir and Daniel Vance.
The four were arrested in March after being allegedly recorded in a car talking about the police discovery of 1.2kg of cocaine in Greenisland.
The defendants were described as “important figures in the South East Antrim UDA”, with Irons referred to as a “commander” in the terror gang. Until recently the self-confessed cocaine user ran the UDA in Carrickfergus, but has been temporarily demoted since being charged with drug dealing.
His involvement in the Craigyhill bonfire has put several loyalists off attending its burning tonight.
One told us: “Who in their right minds brings their kids to watch a bonfire that was built by a man facing charges of dealing cocaine?
“This could have been a great community event until the UDA got involved — those idiots ruin everything.”
Until his arrest earlier this year Irons had been living in Greenisland, where he relocated to in 2018 after the NCA seized his former Carrickfergus home having successfully argued it had been bought with laundered money.
The drug dealing case against him is based on audio recordings relating to the discovery of 1.2kg of cocaine in Greenisland last November.
While police officers searched for the haul Burns is alleged to have been in a car with Irons and Weir discussing the supply of drugs.
According to a prosecution lawyer Burns made a phone call to tell someone else to collect and deliver suspected narcotics.
“There’s concern about police activity and the use of sniffer dogs to search the area,” he said.
During the PSNI operation Irons, Burns and Weir were allegedly asking others to send them pictures of the search.
“They discussed removing an item from a particular location, and there were a series of calls asking those people to keep them updated about what police are doing,” the prosecutor said.
Instructions were also allegedly given to destroy evidence and mobile phones.