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'Good man' Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair reveals how John Hume's prison visit convinced him to call a loyalist cease fire

'Mad Dog' Adair reveals his respect for Nationalist icon who deserves his place in history


Mission for peace: John Hume in his beloved Derry

Mission for peace: John Hume in his beloved Derry

Johnny Adair pictured inside the Maze Prison in June 1999

Johnny Adair pictured inside the Maze Prison in June 1999

John Hume with aide Tom Kelly

John Hume with aide Tom Kelly

Johnny Adair with leading loyalist prisoners Bobby Philpott, Sam McCrory, Glen Cunningham and Michael Stone in the Maze Prison

Johnny Adair with leading loyalist prisoners Bobby Philpott, Sam McCrory, Glen Cunningham and Michael Stone in the Maze Prison


Historian: Dr. Marisa McGlinchey

Historian: Dr. Marisa McGlinchey

John Hume with the SDLP’s Mark Durkan

John Hume with the SDLP’s Mark Durkan


Leading from the front: John Hume addresses a civil rights demonstration in 1968

Leading from the front: John Hume addresses a civil rights demonstration in 1968


Mission for peace: John Hume in his beloved Derry

Former terror chief Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair says John Hume personally persuaded him and other top loyalists to join him on the path to peace.

Jailed for 16 years for directing terrorism, Adair was one of five UFF leaders to take part in top-level talks with the SDLP leader – while still serving a sentence in the Maze Prison.

The jailhouse summit came about after the veteran nationalist politician learned UFF prisoners had voted to end their ceasefire.

But after a full and frank discussion with Hume, the UFF men reversed an earlier decision return to violence.

Now based in Scotland, the former UDA brigadier for West Belfast spoke for the first this week about his respect for John Hume, who passed away last August and has been hailed as perhaps the greatest ever Irish person.

“As soon as John Hume heard the UFF ceasefire was over, he approached our political representative John White, asking if our prisoners would meet him in the Maze.

“He said he wanted to talk to us face-to-face and we agreed. That’s how I and the others met him,” he said.

“John Hume was put in touch with UFF prisoners spokesman Sam

McCrory and a meeting was arranged almost immediately.

“We were all there – Sam McCrory, me, Michael Stone, Bobby Philpott and Glen Cunningham. But when John Hume arrived at the prison, he was on his own.

“After a long discussion with John – where we explained our reasons for not supporting the peace plans – we agreed to revisit the vote.

“And when we did, we voted to reinstate the UFF ceasefire. There’s no doubt, it was his influence. John Hume wanted peace and he was prepared to speak to anyone or go anywhere to bring it about.

“There’s no doubt, John Hume persuaded us. He won us over and we decided to give it a go,” said Adair.

“John Hume was a good man and he deserves his place in history.”

Yesterday former UFF prison spokesman Sam ‘Skelly’ McCrory – who was serving 16 years – also recalled the historic meeting with John Hume.

He said at the time that loyalist prisoners were aware Hume was speaking to the IRA through his talks with Gerry Adams and it was only fair that loyalists spoke to him as well.


“When John Hume asked for the meeting, we decided we should at least listen to what he had to say. He told us all about his life and he said loyalists must be included in any settlement,” said McCrory.

“He was an absolute gentleman and I’ll never forget him,” he added.

Former MP for Foyle, Mark Durkin – who took over the reins of the SDLP leadership from John Hume – is convinced it was his old boss’s skills as a lobbyist and a teacher which became the foundation stone of his political success.

And it ensured John was destined to become one of the best-known politicians in the world.

“People talk about John Hume’s single transferable speech. But as a historian, John had worked out the divisions in Ireland predated partition. And therefore in order to resolve the problem, we had to address the three sets of relationships at play.

“And he was convinced the framework of the problem had to be the framework of the solution.

“Once John had it worked out, he repeated it until it sunk in and was understood by those listening,” he said.

And Durkin recalled an incident in Washington around 35 years ago, when he was employed by Democratic Party Senator Teddy Kennedy.

Durkin had returned to his office after a weekly meeting with senior US politician Tipp O’Neill to discuss economic matters in Northern Ireland.

The young Derry man told Senator Kennedy that O’Neill had just given him two bits of advice: “O’Neill told me it was important to remember two things in politics; He said people like to be asked and they also like to be thanked,” said Durkin.

“But Kennedy insisted O’Neill had missed a third piece of important advice. And he said because I had worked in John Hume’s office, I should know it.

“I said I hadn’t a clue.

“Senator Kennedy said, ‘People also need to be told again and again and again!”

Gerry Murray is an accountant and political analyst based in Derry. A former member of the SDLP, he was close to Hume for almost 50 years.

As a schoolboy at St Columb’s College in the mid-1960s, Hume taught Murray history and he persuaded him that a better society in Northern Ireland was possible.

“John Hume told us to read JC Beckett’s book, A Short History of Ireland. And he also said that division in Ireland was much more than just a line on a map,” he said yesterday.

Later when Murray studied at Trinity College Dublin, he was present when Hume and Teddy Kennedy spoke at the Bicentenary of the Edmund Burke Club.

Murray says the American politician was won over to the Hume way of thinking when the Hume told his audience that the people of Ireland must learn to spill their sweat, rather than their blood, if they wanted to build a better society.

“John Hume’s speech was made into a booklet and Teddy Kennedy had it written into Congress,” said Murray.


Murray is also convinced Hume’s political awareness was heightened when he came back to Derry after studying for a teaching degree at Maynooth. And Murray maintains a short stint teaching in Strabane – where poverty levels were even higher than in his native city – also had a major effect on the young Hume.

“John came from a poor background himself, but in Strabane, he witnessed abject poverty,” he said.

“John also set up the credit union in the city which saw off the loan sharks who for years had fleeced ordinary people with high interest rates.”

With his young wife Pat by his side, Hume embraced the fledgling Civil Rights Movement.

But he became increasingly convinced American involvement was the dynamic which would eventually bring real change in a positive way.

“America provided a major source of funding for the IRA and John wanted to put a stop to that. He wanted to show the Americans how real jobs could provide meaningful change to people’s lives,” said Murray.

Murray is convinced Hume deserves a place in Irish history alongside greats like Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell.

“But the main difference though, is that John Hume delivered. Towards the end of the last millennium, the Irish Times ran an editorial in which it referred to it being John Hume’s century. The paper was right,” Gerry insists. “John Hume’s greatest success is that he took the armed struggle out of nationalist politics.”

Public relations guru Tom Kelly is also a former member of the SDLP and was an advisor to the late former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon.

“John Hume created the circumstances where people can now speak to each other without the threat of violence,” he said.

“Few parties had people of the calibre of John Hume, Seamus Mallon and Eddie McGrady. In many ways it was a team of rivals and it could have been problematic, but John Hume managed it well,” he said. “John was also anti-sectarian and he never walked away. That’s his legacy.”

Marisa McGlinchey – Assistant Professor of Political Science at Coventry University – has written extensively on Northern Ireland. She says: “John Hume developed the formula for consent and he repeated it until a majority of people agreed with him.”


Sunday World