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Sam ‘Skelly’ McCrory rounded on ‘drug dealing’ loyalist paramilitaries in final interview

The former UFF hitman claimed modern-day paramilitary groups are only motivated by cash.

Sam 'Skelly' McCrory

Sam 'Skelly' McCrory

Sam 'Skelly' McCrory

Tribute left at the funeral of Sam ‘Skelly’ McCrory

Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair

Hugh JordanSunday World

Days before he died, former UFF hitman Sam ‘Skelly’ McCrory delivered a stinging attack on Ulster’s present day paramilitaries.

In what turned out to be the final interview of his super-charged life, McCrory insisted many of his former friends were nothing more than fronts for drugs gangs.

And he dismissed others who pose as peaceniks as thugs using public money to feather their own nests.

Speaking to the Sunday World just seven days before he died in a freak accident, McCrory said: “These people aren’t interested in peace – cash is their god.

“And remember, when the war was on they weren’t interested in war either.

“Their only interest was and still is looking out for themselves,” maintained McCrory.

McCrory delivered a savage attack on loyalist leaders. And he questioned why they continue to exist in the present political climate.

“There is no longer any reason for the UDA and UVF to exist. The time to pack up and go has long since past,” he said.

“The UDA and UVF have degenerated into fiefdoms, with senior members looking after family interests.

“Money which is supposed to be for community development continues to be sideswiped into self-interest projects for personal gain.

“Loyalism today is about drugs and money or both,” he said.

He added: “As far as many of them are concerned, there isn’t a loyalist bone in their body.”

Sam 'Skelly' McCrory

More than 300 mourners – including some who travelled from Northern Ireland – attended McCrory’s funeral at Masonhill Crematorium in Ayr on Thursday.

A number of his former UFF comrades paid homage to one of the most active loyalist paramilitaries of the Troubles.

Security sources believe he was the triggerman in at least a dozen murders. His victims were innocent Catholics and Protestants as well as republicans.

McCrory moved to the west coast of Scotland shortly after his release from prison where he served a 16-year sentence for conspiracy to murder two top IRA men.

He was convinced he was caught in a trap set up by MI5.

At first, the one-time top UDA man lived near Campbelltown on the Mull of Kintyre, before settling in Ayr some years ago.

The 57-year-old father of two came out as gay more than 20 years ago.

His former partner Edith and daughter Niketa were among those who travelled from Belfast to say their goodbyes.

Edith said: “Like everyone else, we came to pay our respects. Sam was a good man.”

Tribute left at the funeral of Sam ‘Skelly’ McCrory

Skelly and Edith’s businessman son Samuel passed away last year after a short illness, aged 35.

But on Thursday, his mum brought a small urn containing some of Samuel’s ashes to his father’s funeral.

“I carry Samuel’s ashes with me anywhere I go. And I thought it was would be nice to bring them to his father’s funeral,” Edith said.

Following a loyalist feud, McCrory had quit Northern Ireland to live in Scotland with his partner Harry Cowan.

But following Harry’s death, he moved to a flat at Stonecrop Place, Kincaidston, a housing estate on the outskirts of Ayr.

On Sunday July 24, he had gone out for an afternoon drink. And he was returning to his apartment around two hours later when he lost his footing and fell down a steep concrete staircase. As he lay unconscious with severe facial injuries, neighbours raced to his aid.

At first it was thought McCrory had been shot or assaulted by men with hammers.

But around five hours later, he suffered a heart attack and died in University Hospital Crosshouse, near Kilmarnock, as he underwent emergency treatment.

The youngest of seven children, Sam McCrory was born in Belfast’s City Hospital in 1965. And he was brought up in Louisa Street in the Old Park area. He told friends he was named after an uncle who played for Northern Ireland, but that was dismissed by one of his sisters.

“Samuel is a common name in our family. But he wasn’t called after the footballer. He’s no relation,” she said after the funeral.

Sam’s sister did solve another mystery though – how he got the nickname ‘Skelly’.

“He was nicknamed Skelly because when he was small, he was very thin. They used to say he was like a skeleton and so he got Skelly,” she revealed.

As a youngster attending the now demolished Somerdale Secondary School on Crumlin Road, Sam McCrory forged close friendships with fellow pupils John Adair, Donald Hodgen and Jackie Thompson.

Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair

On daily bus trips, they witnessed sectarianism first hand as they ran the gauntlet past the perceived ‘enemy’ from St Gabriel’s Catholic school in Ardoyne.

As teenagers, a dalliance with the fascist bands of the British punk rock scene failed to quench Skelly and his mates’ thirst for adventure and excitement.

Racism wasn’t a social problem in Belfast, as the immigrant community was tiny.

But caught up in the loyalist anger which followed Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s decision to sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Skelly and his friends joined the UDA.

And as if to announce their arrival, the Somerdale soldiers pulled off a spectacular arson attack.

A local company based on the Hillview Road industrial estate employed too many Catholics for the UDA’s liking.

And the newly-fledged quartet of Skelly, Adair, Hodgen and Thompson broke into its depot after closing time. Once inside, they set about torching around a dozen delivery vans.

Skelly enjoyed the buzz and he later burned a police Land Rover while rioting in Summer Street. He loved being in the middle of the action. Skelly, Adair and Hodgen even enrolled in an elite UDA ‘officers’ training course, based on a farm at Magilligan Point, Co Derry, where they each earned ‘Silver Wings’ awards.

But it was the brother-like bond Skelly formed with his old school pal Adair which laid the foundation stone of Ulster’s most- ruthless loyalist terror group.

And following a change at the top of the UDA, Adair emerged as a new UFF leader in West Belfast.

Although he was never given a rank, ‘Skelly’ became his No2 and together brought the Troubles in Belfast to a whole new level.

Conservative RUC estimates later indicated that under Adair’s command, ‘C’ Coy was responsible for no fewer than 57 murders.

They included many innocent people, shot because of their religion. But until the end, Skelly refused to admit he had regrets. In fact, just like Adair, he revelled in his notoriety.

“What made us different from what went on before was the complete trust we had in each other,” said Skelly said.

“Under Johnny’s command, the UFF on the Shankill was transformed. We soon rearmed with top quality weapons which came from Ulster Resistance.

“Previously UDA guns on the Shankill were poor quality. They had been made in the shipyard and they were more likely to do damage to anyone firing them.

“In a short space of time we had become a slick military machine prepared to take the war to the IRA and we had the intelligence to back it up,” said McCrory.

And the authorities were so worried about the relentless activity of ‘C’ Coy that they brought in an MI5 agent to help snare Skelly and his team. The plan worked.


In 1992, Skelly and the others were caught in a car as they made their way into west Belfast to kill two top IRA men.

He was sent to jail for 16 years. But after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, he played a crucial role in persuading loyalists to support peace.

His efforts were acknowledged by Secretary of State Mo Mowlam and SDLP leader John Hume.

Seven years ago, Skelly and Adair were lucky to escape an assassination bid by dissident republicans.

Antoin Duffy, a Donegal man with Real IRA connections, was serving a sentence in Scotland when he spotted Skelly and Adair visiting a a prisoner from Northern Ireland.

But Duffy’s blueprint for murder was soon rumbled by MI5 spooks after he attempted to purchase an AK-47 assault rifle to use in the hit.

And after he and the others were caught in a security forces sting operation, Duffy was sent to prison for 16 years.

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