Top loyalist dies after heart attack

Wed, Oct 17, 2007, 01:00

A leading loyalist in Northern Ireland died today after suffering a heart attack.

Sammy Duddy, once a commander in the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), had been a senior north Belfast member of the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) which advised the paramilitary organisation. He was aged 62.

He had been under intensive care in the Royal Victoria Hospital after collapsing with a blood clot at his office on Monday.

Mr Duddy who was forced to move house last summer after an attack linked to tensions between rival loyalist factions, worked for the Conflict Transformation Initiative which was set up to help his community move away from violence and criminality.

But it retained close links with the UDA, and it was because of the organisations refusal to hand over its weapons that proposed funding of £1.2 million was blocked by the Northern Ireland Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie.

Mr Duddy was a member of the UDA throughout the worst of the violence on the streets of Belfast, working for years as the organisation's public relations officer.

For a time he edited a UDA magazine and later had a book of poetry published.

He retired from active loyalism in the 1990s, but returned to become a member of the UPRG after the UDA leadership split in a bloody feud which claimed several lives and which led to the ousting of one of its leaders, Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair who now lives in Troon, Scotland.

At the height of that fall-out in 2003, his home was hit with a pipe bomb.

Last year shots were fired at his house in Rathcoole, north Belfast. He and his wife survived, but his pet Chihuahua "Bambi" died after being hit.

Mr Duddy was a colourful character and many years ago once worked as a drag queen using the name Samantha — until he was ordered by the UDA leadership to quit the stage.

Close friend Frankie Gallagher, a spokesman for the UPRG, said: "He came out of retirement to pursue a peaceful path for his community and in pursuit of that he has given his life. It's a massive, massive loss for his community."

PA