Sam ‘Skelly’ McCrory spoke about ‘drug trafficking’ loyalist paramilitaries in final interview


In what turned out to be the last interview of his hectic life, McCrory insisted that many of his old friends were nothing more than fronts for drug gangs.

And he dismissed those who posed as pacifists as thugs using public money to enrich themselves.

Addressing the Sunday world Just seven days before he died in a freak accident, McCrory said: “These people are not interested in peace – money is their god.

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

“Their only interest was and still is to look after themselves,” McCrory argued.

McCrory launched a savage attack on the loyalist leaders. And he wondered why they continue to exist in the current political climate.

“There is no longer any reason for the UDA and the UVF to exist. The days of packing up and leaving are long gone,” he said.

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

“Money supposed to be for community development continues to be invested in projects of self-interest for personal gain.

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

He added: “For many of them there is not a loyalist bone in their body.”

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

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

Security sources believe he was the trigger for 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 of the IRA’s top men.

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

The former UDA best man initially lived near Campbelltown on the Mull of Kintyre, before moving to Ayr a few years ago.

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

His former partner Edith and daughter Niketa were among those who traveled from Belfast to say goodbye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Sunday, July 24, he had gone out for a drink in the afternoon. And he was returning to his flat about two hours later when he lost his footing and fell down a steep concrete staircase. As he lay unconscious with severe facial injuries, neighbors rushed to his aid.

At first, McCrory was thought to have been shot or assaulted by men with hammers.

But around five hours later he suffered a heart attack and died at Crosshouse University Hospital, near Kilmarnock, while undergoing emergency treatment.

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

“Samuel is a common name in our family. But he was not named after the footballer. He is not related,” she said after the funeral.

Sam’s sister, however, solved another mystery – how he got the nickname “Skelly”.

“He was nicknamed Skelly because when he was little he was very skinny. 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 formed close friendships with fellow students John Adair, Donald Hodgen and Jackie Thompson.

On daily bus journeys, they witnessed the bigotry firsthand as they ran the gauntlet of the perceived ‘enemy’ at St Gabriel’s Catholic School in Ardoyne.

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

Racism was not a social issue in Belfast, as the immigrant community was tiny.

But caught up in the loyalist anger that 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 soldiers of Somerdale pulled off a spectacular arson attack.

A local company based in the industrial area of ​​Hillview Road employed too many Catholics for the UDA’s liking.

And the new quartet of Skelly, Adair, Hodgen and Thompson broke into their depot after closing time. Once inside, they proceeded to set fire to a dozen delivery vans.

Skelly enjoyed the buzz and he later burned down a police Land Rover during a riot in Summer Street. He liked to be in the middle of the action. Skelly, Adair and Hodgen even signed up for an elite UDA ‘officer’ training course, based on a farm in Magilligan Point, Co Derry, where they each won ‘Silver Wings’ awards.

But it was the brotherly bond Skelly formed with his former school friend Adair that laid the foundation stone for Ulster’s most ruthless loyalist terrorist group.

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

Although he never received a rank, ‘Skelly’ became his number 2 and together took the Troubles in Belfast to a whole new level.

Conservative RUC estimates later indicated that under Adair’s command, ‘C’ Coy was responsible for as many as 57 murders.

Among them were many innocent people, shot because of their religion. But until the end, Skelly refused to admit he had any regrets. In fact, like Adair, he reveled in his notoriety.

“What differentiated us from what had gone before was the complete trust we had in each other,” Skelly said.

“Under Johnny’s command, the Shankill UFF was transformed. We quickly re-armed with top quality weapons from the Ulster Resistance.

“Previously, the UDA guns on the Shankill were of poor quality. They were made in the shipyard and they were more likely to cause damage to anyone who fired them.

“In a short time we had become a skilled military machine ready to wage war on the IRA and we had the intelligence to back it up,” McCrory said.

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


In 1992 Skelly and the others were caught in a car on their way to West Belfast to kill two of the IRA’s top men.

He was sent to prison 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 recognized by Secretary of State Mo Mowlam and SDLP leader John Hume.

Seven years ago, Skelly and Adair were lucky enough to escape an assassination attempt 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 prisoner from Northern Ireland.

But Duffy’s murder plot was quickly brushed aside by the ghosts of MI5 after he tried to buy an AK-47 assault rifle to use in the hit.

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


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