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EXCLUSIVE: UDA men break code of silence to tell of membership hell

NewsBy Steven Moore
UDA men during a show of strength
UDA men during a show of strength
UDA godfather Jackie McDonald
UDA godfather Jackie McDonald
Johnny Adair delivers a 'speech' with McDonald standing behind him
Johnny Adair delivers a 'speech' with McDonald standing behind him

The UDA is today exposed – by its own men – as a brutal money-making machine hooked on violence.

In an unprecedented glimpse inside the UDA, terror group members reveal the fascist-like regime that forces them to hand over membership fees, dish out beatings to their own and force families from their homes.

The paramilitary code of silence has finally been broken.

UDA veterans, shackled to an organised crime gang, tell of a paramilitary leadership that has no intention of going away.

And they reveal how foot soldiers are begging terror boss Jackie McDonald to let them walk away – without a beating.

They say they are still being forced to pay weekly ‘dues’ to the leadership and are not allowed to quit the UDA unless they pay thousands of pounds to buy themselves out – sometimes as much as £10,000.

And they say they are forced to beat up friends who haven’t paid their subs while the paramilitary group continues to recruit new members.

Following reports that loyalist south Belfast is to benefit from a whopping £7.5million of public cash to inject into areas like Sandy Row and Lisburn, rank-and-file UDA members say it’s time to pull the plug on their own organisation.

After our story last week we were contacted by a number of UDA men from the Lisburn area who wanted to tell us what was really going on within the illegal terror group headed up by overall boss Jackie McDonald.

We agreed to meet the men, who for obvious reasons asked not to be identified, to see what they had to say.

Risking violent retribution should their ‘treachery’ be discovered, they paint a depressing truth about life in the UDA and the stranglehold the terror chiefs-turned-community-workers still have on working-class loyalist communities.

They say that while, on the surface, UDA-led community programmes in estates like Old Warren and Hillhall are winning plaudits, the reality for working-class Protestant men living there is much different.

“We are still getting beaten-up if we don’t pay our dues,” said one disgruntled member.

“We still have to pay £12 every week to the UDA. And on top of that we have to sell ballots during the year like at Christmas.

“We will each get £20 worth of tickets and they cost £1 each but if we can’t sell them we have to buy them ourselves.”

Lisburn UDA falls under McDonald’s south Belfast – one of the wealthiest units in the organisation.

“Jackie McDonald should make a public announcement that UDA members who want out can quit without fear of being punished. There’s just no reason for us to exist anymore.

“He’s sitting up high getting his government-funded pay packet so he should let us all go. The reality is that we all live under constant threat of the UDA and what’s the point? We aren’t taking on republicans or anything like that anymore.”

McDonald’s mob rake in an estimated £20,000 a week in membership fees alone from the 2,000 men under his command in the area.

Throw in a stable of lucrative businesses and an ongoing extortion racket and figures multiply.

“They own a bar which never does much business but we get ordered to go there for functions,” said one UDA man. “Like I say it does very little business so is used as a way to launder all the money they make. The dirty money goes into the bar and comes out the other side clean.

“But they own loads of other firms including a taxi business. They use UDA men who have clean records. They are sleeping owners if you like. Their names are down as owners but they don’t get a penny of the profits.”

All of it flows into UDA coffers.

The cash injection for south Belfast – which mirrors the £1.7million announced for east Belfast last week – will fund the creation of ‘urban villages’ with money earmarked for office space, housing, commercial properties, and cultural and educational programmes.

The cash injection, endorsed  by First Minister Arlene Foster, is to be administered by community group Charter NI headed by UDA brigadier Dee Stitt.

 Loyalist Dee Stitt 

Convicted armed robber Stitt (inset right) claims to have left the terror group but he is widely believed to be their top man in north Down.

Former UDA prisoner Adrian Bird heads up Lisburn UDA and has been lauded in some media articles this week for his work in the Old Warren Estate with regards to battling racism and educating loyalists about the need for integration.

But the UDA members say that good work is all for show to keep the funding rolling in from the government and the UDA is still using violence to make members pay their dues and to keep others in line.

“I’ve been in the UDA for over 30 years and I can’t get out of it because I can’t afford to buy myself out,” said another member we met.

“You can buy your way out but it depends what kind of job you have. The more you earn the more you have to pay. I know some people who have had to pay as much as £10,000 to get out.

“I have had to beat friends for not paying their dues. If you get told to do it you have to go through with it. They stand over you and watch you batter someone you know in front of their family. It’s awful but if you refuse you’ll get punished yourself.

“There have been nights when I haven’t been able to sleep because of what they have made me do.

“These attacks are never reported to the police for the obvious reason so nobody outside the UDA ever knows but it is still going on today.

“But money is all that matters to the UDA and while they are still making so much from their own members they aren’t going to give that up easily.

“The IRA used to pay their members for being in the IRA – the UDA makes a profit off the back of their men.”

Another disgruntled member explained that the terror group was still recruiting new members and used a  football team and a flute band to get new blood into the organisation.

The veneer of respectability is perpetuated when men are ordered to ‘police’ their areas in high-vis vests – with the apparent blessing of the PSNI.

“We have to patrol the estates and get involved in sorting out any disturbances. You could be sleeping at 2am and you get a call ordering you to sort out a house party or a fight.

“You could be working at 6am the next day but it doesn’t matter. If you get told to go you have to go.

“The cops are in support of it but we are UDA men taking matters into our own hands. It’s not right because the police are legitimising these people who are making our lives a misery.

“They are still recruiting young ones into the UDA. They badger the kids into joining up. They might say to one lad you can’t knock around with him because he’s not UDA which puts pressure on their mate to join up themselves.”

The men say the UDA in Lisburn continues to extort cash from local businesses. “The big shops and businesses don’t pay anymore – they’ll just call the cops now but there are plenty of small businesses who pay up out of fear,” said one of the men.

“Lisburn UDA is stinking. They are into every dodgy move to make money you can think of. I remember the Sunday World doing a story years ago about the Housing Executive giving land to a UDA-led community group.

“That was 100 per cent – they effectively sold some land to the UDA for a pound and they built houses on it and took all the profits. The whole thing makes me violently ill to be honest with you.

“We just want to be left alone to live our own lives without the UDA on our backs.

“We would love Jackie [McDonald] to publicly state that the UDA is finished and you can leave it straight away.”

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