Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Drugs: the poison that is polluting communities

Police outlined the dangers of controlled drugs following a number of sudden and unexplained deaths in recent weeks
Police outlined the dangers of controlled drugs following a number of sudden and unexplained deaths in recent weeks

There are senior loyalists who won't talk out loud on this story about unexplained deaths and the feared drugs link. But they are talking quietly, in a non-attributable way; asking what the headlines would be if eight people had been killed in a bomb explosion.

In a very vulgar and crude way, one loyalist commented: "Everyone and his brother is at it."

He means they're moving and pushing drugs and pills in loyalist communities.

And another dismissed the headlines suggesting terror bosses are hunting those responsible – his point being that they need look no further than themselves.

That is not to tar everyone with the same brush, but loyalists on the street know who is at it and where they're at it. Maybe not in these specific cases under investigation, but week in and week out they know who's making the money and the misery.

There are those who will whisper and nod and wink about the "usual suspects". As one community leader put it: "Nothing happens without those guys knowing."

He added: "These guys are savvy enough to keep themselves four or five steps removed."

In all that is being said and speculated, there are smokescreens. The jigsaws of production lines, dealing, selling on and covering tracks never give the full picture.

And whatever the tests produce in these cases under investigation – whether they confirm or dismiss the theories and fears and concerns – this is but one piece in a much bigger problem.

There are those pointing fingers at organisations and at individuals within organisations, and given where the deaths have occurred, there is a specific focus on loyalists.

But this is not an issue confined to just one community.

Republicans will tell you that some of those involved in the so-called dissident factions are 'licensing' drug dealers – taking money and allowing them to deal.

This is the poison that is polluting communities. There are those still using organisations as flags of convenience to hide their money-making business and there are some who know about it but who look the other way.

One source who spoke to this newspaper made the point it was community leaders who brought these recent deaths to the attention of the police.

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