John White, along with Davy Payne, and Kenny McClinton were founding members of the UDA’s Shankill Road C Company, according to Johnny Adair’s autobiography. When White was asked how he could have stabbed Irene Andrews (murdered along with SDLP Stormont Senator Paddy Wilson in 1973) to death he replied “we thought she was a Catholic.” Like Adair, Kenny McClinton enjoys publicity, and like White, spoke of using a knife in their loyalist terrorism. McClinton described loyalist violence like this:
People in loyalist circles are driven by ideals and the defence of their country. The only reason for them to exist is to defend the loyalist community. It is cause and effect. The IRA rebellion was the cause. The effect is armed loyalism.
McClinton was jailed for two murders; a politically uninvolved Catholic civilian, and a Protestant bus driver. Neither killing had any effect on “the IRA rebellion.” Why would they?
Davy Payne is suspected of being involved in murders, some involving the use of knives and torture. Kevin Myers wrote a memorable eulogy about Payne, on another occasion describing him as “one of the most ferocious savages in the history of Irish terror.” The sadly now defunct blog “Vixens With Convictions” also wrote of a sordid double murder Payne was alleged to have been involved in, that of Patrick O’Neill and the singer Rosemary McCartan.
Whilst White is typically exaggerating when he says C Company were responsible for “90%” of sectarian murder from 1972 – 1976, it is true that the west Belfast UDA had within its ranks pitiless murderers and sadists with the drive and capacity to murder any nationalist civilians that they could get access to, often after barbaric abduction and torture. From teenage boys, to middle aged mothers, the 1970s Belfast UDA murdered on scale, and at pace. They killed far more people than the Adair era UDA did.
What effect did this have on the IRA? Well, it didn’t affect their capacity to kill large numbers of RUC members, British Army soldiers, UDR members, and Protestant civilians, and neither did it put them off a wild campaign of bombing “economic targets” that reduced much of Northern Ireland to rubble. Recruitment never seemed to suffer, and in fact some IRA figures openly admitted that loyalist murder kept the volunteers coming:
IRA reaction to the double murder (Patrick O’Neill and Rosemary McCartan) was callous indifference. Former IRA Chief of Staff Daithi O’Connell coolly explained in an interview that Catholic victims of loyalist death squads served to increase recruitment to the IRA’s ranks and kept sectarian hatred perennially on the boil.
John White himself, acknowledged that he and his organisation's campaign of violence against the nationalist population had zero effect on the IRA, though he did say that it curtailed the social lives of Catholics. It also inflicted desperate suffering and grief on nationalists, as well as subjecting once proud loyalist areas of the North to gangster rule. Payne was known for his brutality to his own men, and as we have seen, McClinton murdered a Protestant bus driver.
“Davy Payne Does the Military Reaction Force (MRF) a Big Favour”
Much has been written about collusion. It is undoubtedly true that it took place, and did so from the chaotic early days of the conflict. How successfully loyalists parlayed that collusion into effective action against the IRA is debatable.
Ed Moloney (with James Kinchin-White) on his excellent blog TheBrokenElbow wrote that:
official papers from 1971 show the Heath cabinet agreed a potential intelligence relationship with ‘Protestant vigilantes’ – ‘civil defence’ groups could be ‘tolerated’ – dealings would be ‘unofficial & local.’
This agreement was made at a “Gen 47” meeting held in October 1971. As Moloney writes:
… the UDA was soon wading in blood and that … when the GEN 47 committee convened in London, the UDA had been responsible for just 4 deaths (including two UDA men killed by their own bomb). And because of a policy never to claim killings, unlike the IRA which invariably admitted its violence, it was never clear when the UDA had murdered people. The following year the UDA killed 72 people – one every five days and the reality that lay behind this particular ‘civil defence’ group was bloodily apparent.
Central to the Belfast UDA’s killing campaign was Davy Payne. Despite, or possibly because of this, Payne had good working relationships with some factions of the British security services. When a three man MRF unit was apprehended by an angry loyalist crowd (the British army estimated 150), who thought they’d captured an IRA cell, local loyalists made off with valuable materiel from the MRF car. The military log recorded that during the incident:
The MRF men were then kicked and punched by the Prot crowd. Mil ptl then arrived and managed to get the 3 MRF men out. They were taken to Flax St (one badly beaten up, two slightly injured) One wpn lost (Sgt Williams’ 9mm pistol) in the crowd and the RUC took possession of Lcpl Kinlock’s 9 mm pistol. By the time the car was recovered the red folder (which contains nominal role, codes, c/s, RV’s in city registered initials etc) was missing.
The MRF got their valuable materiel back courtesy of Davy Payne – who was recorded as a “contact” of the army. The full story is fascinating, and it’s worth reading the MRF files on TheBrokenElbow. Interestingly, the “Sgt Williams” is “Taffy” Williams, charged by the RUC with the attempted murder of Nationalists, but found not guilty.
Moloney’s note about 72 murders committed by the UDA is relevant to this article. Adair’s UDA never carried out anything like that many killings in such a condensed period of time. And his unit perhaps did not have anyone like Payne in it.
A Short History of Davy Payne
The Sunday World has reported that Davy Payne was related by marriage to John White. Kevin Myers wrote that what separated Payne from most other UDA members was his “astonishing readiness to kill.” In October 1972, Payne was charged with possession of a large cache of weapons which were kept in a lock-up garage owned by him. He was found not-guilty, but interned shortly afterwards. The Irish Sunday Independent (27/10/74) interviewed him, and noted that he had just spent ten months interned without trial. Payne, bizarrely, said at an internment hearing he had 15 security force witnesses appear against him, accusing him of the murder of Paddy Wilson, and being commander of the UFF. Payne had two Catholics support his release: “One is a builder here on the Shankill who gave me a character reference, and the other is a Catholic woman from Andersonstown whom I had helped.
When asked about sectarian murder, Payne said “I can understand how some people on our side could justify this type of murder. Personally, I would not engage in a sectarian battle." Payne also claimed, probably with good cause, that the Official IRA had him “under sentence of death.” It is unclear if the OIRA, or the PIRA, ever did try to kill him. His “own side” certainly did, as we shall see, in 1978.
The Belfast Telegraph (12/05/75) reported that:
The UDA's brigade commander in North Belfast, Mr. David Payne, saved the Jolly Roger Club in Alliance Avenue from serious damage on Saturday night when he carried a bomb clear.
Payne had nipped the fuse of the bomb, and then carried it (the bomb was contained in a satchel) to a piece of waste ground using a bamboo pole. The reported noted that the UVF had denied that they planted the bomb. In 1976, the IRA opened up on the Jolly Roger, killing two politically uninvolved Protestants, and a UDA member, William Archer, was shot dead outside it on another occasion. At some point after 1976, Payne was relieved of his command of the North Belfast UDA over allegations of the misappropriation of funds.
Payne then shocked militant loyalism when he openly supported the “Peace People” movement, giving speeches rejecting violence, and being involved in the administration of a £10,000 grant in 1978 (Magill 01/03/78). Given that Payne was ejected from role as a UDA leader it would be easy to view his conversion to peace as cynical and opportunistic, but the UDA nonetheless attempted to kill him over it. One week after he gave a speech at a Peace People rally in Ballymena, gunmen arrived at Payne home and opened fire, wounding him in the leg. The gunmen were presumably unmasked, and their fates are unknown, as is the effect the attempted murder had on Payne’s commitment to peace.
By 1980, Payne was running Crumlin Road Opportunities, a cross-community project aimed at training with vocational skills young people who would contemporaneously be described as NEET – Not in Education, Employment, or Training. Trainees included Johnny Adair (who discusses the project in his autobiography) and Skelly McCrory. McCrory was at an event hosted by the Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1982. The Lord Mayor, Tommy Patton, “paid particular tribute” to Payne (Belfast Telegraph, 18/06/82).
The project Payne managed was situated in Ewart’s Mill. In 1972 a nightwatchman employed at Ewart’s Mill, Thomas Madden, was sadistically murdered. Payne has been linked to the shockingly brutal murder of Mr Madden by a number of historians. Tom Madden’s employment at the Mill would have been known to his assailants. One wonders if Davy Payne ever spared a moment for Tom Madden as he held court in Ewart’s Mill, whilst drawing a government salary and administering £120k of UK and European Social Fund money (over £550k nowadays adjusting for inflation).
Perhaps predictably, Payne was sacked from Crumlin Road Opportunities for the same reason he was relieved of his command of the North Belfast UDA (having his fingers in the till). He was later allowed back in, with disastrous results for the post Anglo-Irish Agreement era UDA. Also worth reading the Balaclava Street article which covers Payne's final hurrah for the UDA. Ed Moloney noted that it was one Brian Nelson who was meant to take delivery of a massive shipment of loyalist weaponry, but he ducked out at the last minute, leaving the hapless Davy Payne to pick up the slack.
The UDA in Belfast towards the end of 1970s
Whilst 14 year old Samuel McCrory was getting hammered literally for anti-social behaviour in 1979, the UDA/UFF (according to the imperfect CAIN resource) in Belfast killed two republicans: an OIRA activist named Joseph McKee, and a Provo, Billy Carson. The UDA/UFF also killed at least six politically uninvolved nationalists, and were involved in feud killings.
One of the men convicted of killing Carson was named David Milton Dodds, the other was a man named Mullan. Another man named Dodds, “Winkie” became a senior C Company figure in the 80s and 90s, ultimately falling foul of Adair as did his brother, Milton Dodds. A source indicated that David Milton Dodds is Winkie Dodds brother, though I cannot say for sure if he is or not. There are two years between them in age.
The murder of Carson was unusual for the UDA at that time. It involved a high level of planning, and up-to-date intelligence. Dodds and Mullan called at Carson’s home, but he wasn’t in. They returned later that day, and sat with his family until Carson finally arrived home, at which point they shot him dead. This was a killing which wouldn’t have been out of place in John McMichael’s “shopping list” of killings in 1980 and 1981 (more of which in part 3). It was arguably more sophisticated a killing, with a more consequential impact on the IRA, than anything Adair’s C Company did.
The ratio of republican to nationalist victims of UDA violence in 1979 was unusually high, and the number of victims significantly lower than previous years, but otherwise 1979 was very much business as usual for the UDA in Belfast.
In 1980, members of the UDA’s C Company committed a murder which was as brutal as anything committed in the 1970s, and as futile as any carried out by Adair’s outfit a decade later. A juvenile delinquent, Alex “Oso” Calderwood beat an unarmed and defenceless nationalist, Alexander “Speedy” Reid to death with a concrete breeze block. As Calderwood put it:
“I grew up hating Roman Catholics and that’s the honesty about it because I don’t think I was politically aware. It was basically sectarianism at its heaviest. I joined the UDA when I was 16 years of age, in C Company with people like Bucky McCullough, Tucker Lyttle and Jimmy Craig.
The INLA killed Bucky McCullough, Adair’s rise to prominence would be occasioned by Lyttle’s fall from UDA grace, and Jim Craig was allegedly killed by individuals linked to Adair. And, of course, former associates of Adair’s would murder and secretly bury the son of UDA legend Bucky McCullough.
UDA killings had decreased dramatically, but attacks on actual militant republicans were about to increase, and reach a tempo which Adair’s unit failed to match.
More in part three…
⏩ Brandon Sullivan is a middle aged, middle management, centre-left Belfast man. Would prefer people focused on the actual bad guys.