Poots meets police over drug deaths
Northern Ireland's Health Minister is to meet senior police officers to discuss a spate of suspected drugs related deaths.
Edwin Poots has been critical of the PSNI after eight people aged in their 20s and 30s in greater Belfast and Coleraine died in unexplained circumstances over recent weeks.
He is demanding an update from the PSNI on the steps being taken to tackle drug dealing.
Mr Poots said: "Substance misuse can have a very real and damaging effect on people's physical health and wellbeing, as well as their mental health, relationships, family, friends and community.
"I have seen all too frequently the devastating impact that substance misuse can have on our society - from the health and social care system, to the economy and the criminal justice sector.
"We need to remember that every drug-related death is an individual tragedy, and my thoughts are with the families of those individuals affected."
Last week Mr Poots sparked controversy when he claimed police may be turning a blind eye to certain drug dealing to protect informants. The allegation was strenuously denied by the PSNI.
His comments were made after health authorities raised concerns about a dangerous batch of green-coloured ecstasy-type tablets. However, police have since ruled out a single killer drug link to the eight deaths although toxicology results have not yet been released.
Most of the deaths occurred in east Belfast leading to suspicion that loyalist paramilitaries may have supplied the lethal substances.
Mr Poots will be joined at the meeting with representatives from FASA (Forum for Alcohol and Substance Abuse) and ASCERT (Action on Substances through Community Education and Related Training).