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Sammy Duddy

ALMOST every journalist who covered the Troubles in the North has a story about the Ulster Defence Association spokesman, Sammy Duddy who died of a heart attack last week, aged 62.

As well as his role in the UDA, Duddy was a cabaret comedian, often dressing in drag, whose lewd acts were a great draw in loyalist drinking clubs across Belfast in the 1970s. He took serious exception to one New York-based journalist who innocently described him as a transvestite, thinking it suggested he was homosexual. Duddy was married at the time and had five children.

He was also a serious terrorist whose day job involved gathering intelligence and directing attacks against suspected republican terrorists.

He was associated with a UDA unit in north Belfast which, at one point, specialised in breaking into people's homes and murdering them in their beds. While a few of the victims were in the IRA or worked for the IRA, many were innocents, targeted mistakenly.

Duddy dubbed this gang of nocturnal killers "the window cleaners" because they used stolen window cleaners' ladders to break into the houses.

Their activities struck terror into the hearts of Catholics in the north of the city, many suffering nightmares for years afterwards.

After the RUC broke up the gang, arresting most of its members, the north Belfast UDA became less and less capable of targeting and killing republicans, increasingly killing innocent Catholics.

A joke among loyalists at the time was that if the north Belfast UDA had you on its target list, your next door neighbour was in deadly danger.

They also carried out completely random assasinations in drive-by shootings in Catholic areas.

Like a large number of young men from the Shankill area, Duddy joined the UDA in the early 1970s to hit back at the IRA, which was bombing civilian targets at the time. He was present on the Shankill Road when a no-warning IRA bomb exploded outside Moffatt's furniture store in December 1971 killing four people, two of them infants: Tracy Munn, two, and Colin Nicholl, 17 months.

After seeing the bodies of the two infants, he and hundreds of others went to the nearest UDA office and joined up. He eventually gave up his job in Harland and Wolff shipyard to become a full-time terrorist. He fully espoused the UDA philosophy at the time that they only way to defeat IRA terrorism was to "terrorise the terrorists".

At some point, and for reasons which he kept to himself, he moved away from direct involvement in the terrorist side of the UDA.

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Duddy was a strong supporter of UDA leader, Andy Tyrie's attempts to move the loyalist movement into politics.

He edited its monthly magazine, Ulster, which promulgated the idea of a power-sharing assembly at Stormont two decades before Ian Paisley and the DUP came round to the idea.

Under Tyrie's direction the magazine also promoted the separate and distinct nature of Northern Protestant culture. Duddy himself published a small book of his own poetry, entitled, Concrete Whirlpools of the Mind.

His poetry reveals the mind of a person who had grown sick of terrorism. He was scathing of rabble-rousing loyalist politicians who urged Protestants to take action against the IRA but who would have nothing to do with the dirty end of the business. He particularly disliked Ian Paisley and disdained the big-house unionists of the Ulster Unionist Party.

In another place and time Duddy, like Tyrie an old-fashioned socialist, would have been a trade unionist or Labour Party supporter.

In recent years and after the failure of the UDA to break into politics he worked hard to help the UDA graduate into community activism.

He detested the new breed of UDA leaders who were openly involved in the drugs trade and made his views clear.

In the past three years, there were two attempts to murder him by associates of Johnny Adair, the deposed UDA boss and drug dealer now living in exile in Scotland.

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