Tag Archives: John Gregg

John Bingham UVF : Life & Death

John Bingham Life & Death

John Dowey Bingham (c. 1953 – 14 September 1986) was a prominent Northern Irish loyalist who led “D Company” (Ballysillan), 1st Battalion, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). He was shot dead by the Provisional IRA after they had broken into his home.

Bingham was one of a number of prominent UVF members to be assassinated during the 1980s, the others being Lenny Murphy, William Marchant, Robert Seymour and Jackie Irvine

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are solely intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

Ulster Volunteer Force

John Bingham was born in Northern Ireland around 1953 and was brought up in a Protestant family. Described as a shopkeeper, he was married with two children. He lived in Ballysillan Crescent, in the unionist estate of Ballysillan in North Belfast, and also owned a holiday caravan home in MillisleCounty Down.

He was a member of the “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Lodge of the Orange Order. On an unknown date, he joined the Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation, the UVF, and eventually became the commander of its “D Company”, 1st Battalion, Ballysillan, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

See: Oranger Order

He was the mastermind behind a productive gun-running operation from Canada, which over the years had involved the smuggling of illegal weapons into Northern Ireland to supply UVF arsenals; however, three months after Bingham’s death, the entire operation collapsed following a raid on a house in Toronto by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in December 1986.

Bingham was one of the loyalist paramilitaries named in the evidence given by supergrass Joe Bennett, who accused him of being a UVF commander.  He testified that he had seen Bingham armed with an M60 machine gun and claimed that Bingham had been sent to Toronto to raise funds for the UVF.

These meetings opened contact with Canadian businessman John Taylor, who became involved in smuggling guns from North America to the UVF.  As a result of Bennett’s testimony, Bingham was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after being convicted of committing serious crimes.

He publicly denounced the supergrass system before live television cameras outside Belfast’s Crumlin Road Courthouse when he was released in December 1984 after his conviction had been overturned, having spent two and a half years in prison.

Dillon in 2020
Martin Dillon

On one occasion, Bingham allegedly placed a loaded pistol inside journalist Martin Dillon‘s mouth because of the latter’s offensive words he had used against him. In an attempt to make amends for his threat, Bingham invited Dillon to visit him at his home in North Belfast.

Dillon accepted the invitation and after several whiskeys and brandishing a pistol, Bingham offered to show him his racing pigeons as he was an avid pigeon fancier. He then told Dillon that he shouldn’t believe what people said about him claiming that he couldn’t harm a pigeon. As they said farewell at the front door, Bingham reportedly murmured in a cold voice to Dillon:

“You ever write about me again and I’ll blow yer fuckin’ brains out, because you’re not a pigeon”.


IRA Belfast Brigade, shoot & kill UVF Inner Council memember John Bingham 14 September 1986

In July 1986, a 25-year-old Catholic civilian, Colm McCallan, was shot close to his Ligoniel home; two days later, he died of his wounds. The IRA sought to avenge McCallan’s death by killing Bingham, the man they held responsible for the shooting.[

Bingham was also believed to have been behind the deaths of several other Catholic civilians.

Ballysillan, north Belfast, where John Bingham lived and commanded the Ballysillan UVF

At 1:30 am on 14 September 1986, Bingham had just returned to Ballysillan Crescent from his caravan home in Millisle. Three gunmen from the IRA’s Ardoyne 3rd Battalion Belfast Brigade, armed with two automatic rifles and a .38 Special, smashed down his front door with a sledgehammer and shot Bingham twice in the legs. Despite his injuries, Bingham ran up the stairs in an attempt to escape his attackers and had just reached a secret door at the top when the gunmen shot him three more times, killing him.

 He was 33 years old. He was given a UVF paramilitary funeral, which was attended by politicians from the two main unionist parties, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Members of his “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Orange Order (OO) Lodge formed the guard of honour around his coffin, which was covered with the UVF flag and his gloves and beret. Prominent DUP activist George Seawright helped carry the coffin whilst wearing his OO sash, and called for revenge.

See: George Seawright

In retaliation, the UVF killed Larry Marley, a leading IRA member from Ardoyne who was also a close friend of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. The IRA in their turn gunned down William “Frenchie” Marchant the following spring on the Shankill Road. The deaths of three leading UVF members caused suspicion amongst the UVF leadership that someone within their ranks was setting up high-ranking UVF men by passing on pertinent information to the IRA; therefore, they decided to conduct an enquiry.

Although it was revealed that the three men, Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy, Bingham, and Marchant had all quarrelled with powerful UDA fund-raiser and racketeer James Pratt Craig prior to their deaths, the UVF did not believe the evidence was sufficient to warrant an attack against Craig, who ran a large protection racket in Belfast.

Jim craig loyalist.jpg
James Craig

Craig was later shot to death in an East Belfast pub by the UDA (using their “Ulster Freedom Fighters” covername) for “treason”, claiming he had been involved in the assassination of South Belfast UDA brigadier John McMichael, who was blown up by a booby-trap car bomb planted by the IRA outside his Lisburn home in December 1987.

See : James Craig

In Ballysillan Road, there is a memorial plaque dedicated to the memory of Bingham. His name is also on the banner of the “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Lodge.

14th March – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

14th March


Tuesday 14 March 1972


      Colm Keenan &  Eugene McGillan

Two IRA members were shot dead by British soldiers in the Bogside area of Derry.

Friday 14 March 1975

[Public Records 1975 – Released 1 January 2006:

Merlyn Rees



Note by Merlyn Rees, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The note deals with plans for the Constitutional Convention; the election to which was held on 1 May 1975.]

Monday 14 March 1977

James Nicholson (44), an English businessman, was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as he left the Strathearn Audio factory, Stockman’s Lane, Belfast.

Sunday 14 March 1982

John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), said that the plans for ‘rolling devolution’ were “unworkable”.

Wednesday 14 March 1984

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), was shot and wounded by the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a covername used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), as he travelled by car through Belfast.

Three other SF members were also wounded in the attack. The men were returning to west Belfast from a court appearance in the center of Belfast.

[In March 1985 three men were sentenced for attempted murder as a result of the attack.]

See John Gregg UDA Leader

Tuesday 14 March 1989

Eighteen members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) were reprimanded and one cautioned over their part in incidents surrounding the shootings which led to the ‘shoot to kill’ allegations.

Wednesday 14 March 1990

There were disturbances in the Crumlin Road Prison over the issue of the segregation of Republican and Loyalist prisoners.

[The issue was to lead to further disturbances during the year.]

Thursday 14 March 1991

‘Birmingham Six’ Freed

Six men, known as the ‘Birmingham Six’, who had spent 16 years in jail were freed by the Court of Appeal in London. The six were: Hugh Callaghan, Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, Billy Power, and Johnny Walker. The men had been convicted for the bombings that occurred in two public houses in Birmingham on 21 November 1974.

The six had been found guilty on the basis of forensic evidence and confessions that the men claimed were beaten out of them.

The forensic evidence was shown to be unreliable and there was evidence that the police had forged notes of interviews and had given false evidence at the original trial. Kenneth Baker, then Home Secretary, accepted that this was the third case of a miscarriage of justice involving Irish people in the previous 18 months.

See Birmingham Pub Bombs

Peter Brooke, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced to the House of Commons that an agreement had been reached with the Irish government whereby he would decide when they would enter the political negotiations. In addition he also set Easter as the deadline for all the parties deciding on the arrangements for new political talks.

[The talks were to involve the four main political parties and were the first in a series that lasted from April 1991 to November 1992 and later became known as the Brooke / Mayhew Talks. Patrick Mayhew took over from Brooke as Secretary of State before the talks were concluded.]

Monday 14 March 1994

Louis Blom-Cooper, then independent commissioner for Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) holding stations, called for the introduction of video and audio recording of interrogations.

Tuesday 14 March 1995

Prison officers at the Maze Prison carry out searches for “illicit material” which spark rioting by 150 Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) prisoners.

[In the following week there are a number of attacks on the homes of prison officers.]

Friday 14 March 1997

John Slane (44), a Catholic man, was shot dead in his home in west Belfast.

[It was believed that a Loyalist paramilitary group was responsible although none of the various groups claimed responsibility.]

Sloan left a wife and nine children.


A number of shots were fired by a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) patrol outside the Derryhirk Bar in Aghagallon, County Antrim. An investigation into the incident was announced by the Independent Commission for Police Complaints.

The Court of Appeal cleared Damien Sullivan of the murder in May 1994 of Nigel Smyth who was a security guard at the time. Thomas Fox, a co-accused, had his appeal rejected.

David McClean, then a junior minister in the Home Office, wrote a letter in the Guardian (a British newspaper) in which he compared Roisín McAliskey, then being held in prison awaiting a decision about extradition, to “IRA scum” and to Myra Hindley (a notorious child killer).

George Mitchell, then Chairman of the multi-party talks at Stormont, spoke at the American Ireland Fund dinner in Washington and condemned the “twin demons of Northern Ireland, violence and intransigence” which were feeding off each other “in a deadly ritual in which most of the victims were innocent”.

[Many people took the reference to “intransigence” to have been particularly directed at certain Unionist politicians, especially Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The DUP subsequently issued a statement which called for Mitchell’s resignation as Chairman of the talks.]

Edward Kennedy, then an American Senator, called for an “immediate and unconditional” ceasefire by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Kennedy also called on John Major, then British Prime Minister, to state that Sinn Féin (SF) would be allowed to enter the Stormont talks when they resumed on 3 June 1997.

Sunday 14 March 1999

The Parades Commission banned a Loyalist parade from passing through the mainly Catholic Garvaghy Road in Portadown, County Armagh.

Wednesday 14 March 2001

Adrian Porter (34), a member of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), died several hours after being shot at his home in Conlig, near Bangor, County Down. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) were responsible for the killing which was part of a feud between the LVF and the UVF.

Thursday 14 March 2002

 There was further speculation in some of the media that there would be an imminent move on arms by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Senior security sources were reported as saying that they expected there would be another act of IRA decommissioning “sooner rather than later”.

John Taylor, then Ulster Unionist peer (Lord Kilclooney), told the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that he believed in 1972, and still believed, that 13 gunmen were killed by the British army on Bloody Sunday.

Later during questioning he partially qualified his assertion and said:

“There are those who now say that innocent people were shot. If that is so it is a tragedy, but at that time I believed that all of those who were shot were shot because they were endangering the lives of the security forces, and that they were armed.”

Lisburn, in County Antrim, and Newry, in County Down, were granted city status in a competition to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee. The towns were judged on their notable characteristics, historical and royal connections and progressive attitudes.

The two new cities join the existing three cities of Armagh, Belfast, and Derry.

There was continued criticism of the remarks made by David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), about the Republic of Ireland on 9 March 2002. Richard Haass, then a special advisor to the US President, said the comments were “regrettable”. He said he thought leaders should not talk “in ways that sharpen sectarian conflict”. John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, also joined the criticism.



Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the death of the following people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

– Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live  forever

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

9  People   lost their lives on the 14th March between 1972 – 2001


14 March 1972

Colm Keenan,   (19)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot while in entry off Dove Gardens, Bogside, Derry.


14 March 1972

Eugene McGillan,  (18)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot while in entry off Dove Gardens, Bogside, Derry.


14 March 1974

George Robinson,   (46)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Republican group (REP)
Shot at his home, Bankmore Street, off Ormeau Road, Belfast


14 March 1977

James Nicholson,   (44)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
English businessman. Shot while in chauffeur-driven car, just after leaving Strathearn Audio factory, Stockman’s Lane, Belfast.


14 March 1987
Fergus Conlon,  (31)

Status: Civilian Political Activist (CivPA),

Killed by: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)
Irish Republican Socialist Party member. Found shot, Clontigora, near Forkhill, County Armagh. Irish National Liberation Army / Irish People’s Liberation Organisation feud


14 March 1988

Kevin McCracken,  (31)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot during attempted Irish Republican Army (IRA) sniper attack on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Norglen Crescent, Turf Lodge, Belfast.


14 March 1989

Thomas Hardy,   (48)

Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Shot at his workplace, Granville Meats, Aughnacloy Road, Dungannon, County Tyrone.


14 March 1997

John Slane,  (44)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot, at his home, Thames Court, off Broadway, Falls, Belfast.


14 March 2001

Adrian Porter, (34)

Status: Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Died several hours after being shot at his home, Breezemount Park, Conlig, near Bangor, County Down. Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) / Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) feud.



John Gregg (UDA) The man who shot Gerry Adam?

 John Gregg


John Gregg (1957 – 1 February 2003) was a senior member of the UDA/UFF loyalist paramilitary organisation in Northern Ireland. In 1984, Gregg seriously wounded Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in an assassination attempt. From the 1990s until his shooting death in 2003 by rival associates, Gregg served as brigadier of the UDA’s South East Antrim Brigade. Widely known as a man with a fearsome reputation, Gregg was considered a “hawk” in loyalist circles


The views and opinions expressed in this documentary/ies and page are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland.

They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors


John Gregg
John Gregg UDA.jpg

John “Grugg” Gregg in 1990
Birth name John Gregg
Nickname(s) “Grugg”, “The Reaper”
Born 1957
Died 1 February 2003 (aged 45–46)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Buried at Carnmoney Cemetery
Allegiance Ulster Defence Association
Service/branch UDA South East Antrim Brigade
Years of service 1971-2003
Rank Brigadier
Conflict The Troubles
Relations Stuart Gregg (son

Early life

Gregg was born in 1957 and raised in a Protestant family from the Tigers Bay area of North Belfast. Gregg when explaining his family background, revealed that his father, regarded as a quiet man, had trust in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and British Army but joined the loyalist vigilante groups set up around the start of the Troubles ostensibly to protect the Protestant community from attacks by republicans. His own earliest memory of the Troubles was the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association marches in Derry, a movement to which Gregg and his family were strongly opposed.

Ulster Defence Association

Gregg joined the Ulster Young Militants (UYM), the youth wing of the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association (UDA) at the age of 14.  He spent six months in jail for rioting in 1977. He later became part of the UDA South East Antrim Brigade. Members of this brigade were believed to be behind the killings of Catholic postman Danny McColgan, Protestant teenager Gavin Brett and Trevor Lowry (the latter kicked to death in the mistaken belief he was a Catholic), and a spate of pipe bomb attacks on the homes of Catholics.

Assassination attempt on Gerry Adams

On 14 March 1984, he severely wounded Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in an attack supposedly ordered as a response to the earlier killings of Ulster Unionist Party politicians Robert Bradford and Edgar Graham.

Gregg, at the time the head of the UDA commando in Rathcoole, was in charge of a three-man hit team that pulled up alongside Adams’ car near Belfast City Hall and opened fire injuring Adams and his three fellow passengers, who nonetheless escaped to seek treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

Policeman outside ward where Gerry Adams was treated
Police guard outside hospital were Adams is treated

Gregg and his team were apprehended almost immediately by a British Army patrol that opened fire on them before ramming their car.[4] The attack had been known in advance by security forces due to a tip-off from informants within Rathcoole; Adams and his co-passengers had survived in part because Royal Ulster Constabulary officers, acting on the informants’ information, had replaced much of the ammunition in the UDA’s Rathcoole weapons dump with low-velocity bullets.

Gregg was jailed for 18 years; however, he only served half his sentence and was released in 1993.

When asked by the BBC in prison if he regretted anything about the shooting, his reply was:

“Only that I didn’t succeed.”


UDA mural in Gregg’s Rathcoole stronghold

Following his release from prison, Gregg returned to Rathcoole where he again became an important figure, taking a central role in the illegal drug trade, with his Rathcoole stronghold a centre of narcotics.Sometime after the Combined Loyalist Military Command of 1994 he succeeded Joe English, who had emerged as a leading figure in the Ulster Democratic Party, as brigadier of the South-East Antrim UDA.

Under Gregg the South-East Antrim Brigade were prepared to ignore the terms of the loyalist ceasefire, such as on 25 April 1997 when he dispatched a five-man team to Carrickfergus to set fire to a Catholic church in retaliation for a similar attack on a Protestant church in East Belfast (this earlier attack had actually been organised by dissident loyalists seeking to provoke the UDA into returning to violence).[9] Gregg’s fearsome reputation earned him the nickname “the Reaper” and he bore a tattoo of the Grim Reaper on his back as a tribute.

Gregg played the bass drum in the UDA-affiliated flute band Cloughfern Young Conquerors, a loyalist flute band which police claimed regularly caused trouble at Orange Order parades. In late August 1997 this band was one of a number of similar flute bands to travel to Derry for the annual Apprentice Boys of Derry march through the city centre.

As the band prepared to take the train home that evening they met members of the Shankill Protestant Boys, another band in town for the parade that was affiliated to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Brawls between the two had been frequent and tensions had been growing between the UDA and UVF leading to a drink-fuelled pitched battle between the two groups at the train station.

During the course of the melee a Shankill Protestant Boys member managed to gouge out Gregg’s eye, although it is also claimed that Gregg lost his eye due to a fight with republicans at the same parade.

Anti-Catholic campaigns

Along with Jackie McDonald and Billy McFarland, fellow brigadiers on the UDA’s Inner Council, Gregg was lacking in enthusiasm for the Belfast Agreement when it appeared in 1998. Throughout 1999 his brigade continued to be active, undertaking a pipe bomb campaign against Catholic homes whilst on 12 May members of his brigade shot and wounded a Catholic builder in Carrickfergus under the cover name “Protestant Liberation Force”. Much of this activity was inspired by Gregg’s personal hatred of Catholics.

A senior police source once described him as a man driven by “pure and absolute bigotry”.  Gregg was also characterised as “a bully, a racketeer, and a sectarian bigot who took particular delight in carrying out vicious punishment attacks and randomly targeting Roman Catholics.”

In 2000 he helped to ensure that a proposal before the Inner Council to initiate the decommissioning of weapons was rejected.

Having witnessed demographic shifts in Glengormley and Crumlin, traditionally loyalist majority towns that had come to have nationalist majorities on account of loyalists moving out of Belfast, he determined that the same thing would not happen in Carrickfergus and Larne and so launched a campaign of pipe bomb and arson attacks on Catholic homes there (despite these towns having very small Catholic populations).

The main target proved to be Danny O’Connor, a Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) representative on initially Larne Borough Council and then the Northern Ireland Assembly, whose home and office were attacked at least twelve times by Gregg’s men between 2000 and 2002. Protestant Trevor Lowry (aged 49) was beaten to death in Glengormley by UDA members under Gregg’s command on 11 April 2001 after he was mistaken for a Catholic. Catholic workman Gary Moore was killed in Monkstown in 2000 in another killing attributed to Gregg’s unit.

In late 2001, Gregg’s reign of terror in Rathcoole, where drug dealing, knee-capping and savage beatings were the norm, was challenged by local British Labour Party Councillor Mark Langhammer, who also objected to Gregg’s close links to neo-Nazi groups in Great Britain.

He called on the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to establish an auxiliary police “clinic” on the estate, which had no permanent police building, so as locals concerned about crime could have somewhere to go.  This followed in summer 2002 when a community centre was taken over for this purpose although Gregg’s UDA objected and daubed the building with the word “tout”.

On 4 September Langhammer’s car was blown up outside his Whiteabbey home by Gregg’s men, although Langhammer himself was asleep at the time and no one was injured.

Johnny Adair

Despite the continuing activity of his brigade, and his own earlier maiming, Gregg shared the reluctance of other brigadiers about what he saw as a coming war between the UVF and West Belfast brigadier Johnny Adair Nonetheless he was not keen to antagonise Adair and so, along with McFarland, McDonald and Jimbo Simpson, accepted his invitation to attended a “Loyalist Day of Culture” organised by Adair on the Lower Shankill on 19 August 2000. Old tensions resurfaced however, and after Adair’s men fought with UVF supporters at the Shankill’s Rex Bar, Adair launched a pogrom of the lower Shankill, forcing out all UVF members and their families and initiating a loyalist feud.[22]

Gregg initially remained aloof from the struggle and instead concentrated on his anti-Catholic campaign. However in the second half of 2002 he was dragged into the conflict after Adair made him a target in his own attempts to take full control of the UDA. A UDA member originally from the Woodvale Road had moved to Rathcoole where he had been beaten up after it emerged that he was a friend of Joe English, the former brigadier who had been exiled from the estate by Gregg for his anti-drugs stance.

As a result of the attack, three Woodvale UDA members went to Gregg and complained about the attack. Gregg took this as a threat and, after complaining to senior figures in the West Belfast UDA, ordered the three men to be kneecapped. The shootings raised some anger on the Shankill, where the three were well-liked figures, and Adair sought to exploit this as a method of getting rid of Gregg. He sought to portray Gregg as unstable and thuggish and spread a rumour that he was about to be replaced as brigadier.

By September 2002, Adair had even circulated stories to contacts in the media that Gregg was under death threat from the UDA. In late August, Adair had even managed to have Gregg stood down as Brigadier for “not being militant enough” and replaced by one of Adair’s own associates.

However, this proved short-lived. In October 2002, Gregg was one of the brigadiers who passed the resolution expelling Adair from the UDA for his involvement in the non-fatal shooting of Jim Gray

Adair ignored the expulsion, erecting “West Belfast UDA – Business as Usual” banners on the Shankill Road, whilst continuing his struggles with the remaining brigadiers, Gregg in particular. On 8 December a bomb was found under Gregg’s car, apparently placed there by one of Adair’s allies from the Loyalist Volunteer Force. 

Soon after two pipe bombs were thrown at Gregg’s house, and his friend Tommy Kirkham‘s house was shot at. In response, graffiti appeared around the walls of Rathcoole in December, stating:

“Daft Dog and White beware. The Reaper is coming for you”

as a threat to “Mad Dog” Adair and his ally John White A bomb attack on Adair’s house on 8 January 2003 was blamed on Gregg by White, although Adair himself was returned to prison two days later after a dossier detailing his drug-dealing and racketeering activities was shown to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Paul Murphy

Shooting death and aftermath

A mural commemorating Gregg and Carson in Cloughfern

 John Gregg – Funeral

1 February 2003, along with another UDA member, Robert “Rab” Carson, Gregg was shot dead on Nelson Street, in the old Sailortown district near the Belfast docks, while travelling in a red Toyota taxi after returning from Glasgow where he regularly went to watch Rangers F.C. games. Gregg had been a regular visitor to Ibrox Park for a number of years,

often in the company of Michael Stone, and had even picked up a conviction for violence at an Old Firm match. Gregg’s movements were known to C Company member Alan McCullough who, receiving instruction from Adair (then in HMP Maghaberry), arranged for a hit team to kill Gregg and his associate as the taxi took them from the port of Belfast.

When the taxi stopped at traffic lights close to the motorway, it was rammed by another taxi which had been hijacked earlier on the Shankill Road. Masked gunmen immediately opened fire on the occupants with automatic weapons. Gregg, seated in the backseat, was hit at close range and died instantly.

A mortally-wounded Carson died later in hospital, and taxi driver William McKnight was seriously hurt. Gregg’s 18-year-old son Stuart and another man were also in the vehicle but neither sustained injuries in the shooting attack.  Carson was described by UDA sources as a “dear friend” of Gregg’s and a junior member of the South-East Antrim Brigade.

South East Antrim Brigade mural in Ballymena honouring Gregg

Gregg’s killing proved to be the undoing of Adair. Gregg was the most senior UDA member killed since South Belfast brigadier John McMichael was blown up by the IRA in 1987. Despite his reputation for gangsterism, Gregg’s failed attack on Gerry Adams had afforded him legendary status and, under the direction of Jackie McDonald, the remaining UDA brigadiers concluded that Adair had to be removed.

Gregg was given a paramilitary funeral which was attended by thousands of mourners, including senior UDA members Jackie McDonald, Jim Gray, Sammy Duddy and Michael Stone. Senior members of the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando also attended. A volley of shots was fired over his coffin by UDA gunmen outside his Rathcoole home. The coffin was draped in the Ulster flag and the flag of the UFF. Members of the Cloughfern Young Conquerors dressed in uniform accompanied the coffin.

Afterwards a lone piper led the cortege to Carnmoney Cemetery where he was buried. At the service on 6 February, UVF/RHC representatives joined the UDA leadership in a show of anti-Adair solidarity. That same night Jackie McDonald’s forces invaded the lower Shankill and ran those members of C Company that had remained loyal to Adair, who was still in prison, out of the city. In May of that same year, Alan McCullough was himself killed by the UDA.

Following the conclusion of the feud with Adair the UDA reconstituted its ceasefire in what they christened the “Gregg initiative”. The juxtaposition of this initiative with the name of Gregg was condemned by the mother of a Catholic who had been killed by members of the South-East Antrim Brigade in 2000 as she argued:

“it’s sickening to call it the Gregg initiative when he was a ruthless terrorist….Everyone goes on about Johnny Adair but they’re all as bad as each other”.

In November 2011, Stuart Gregg received £400,000 compensation for psychological trauma due to having witnessed his father’s murder.

Personal life

Gregg was married with one son and two stepdaughters