Belfast Telegraph

Eight deaths... it's time we knew truth

Care has to be taken over the eight sudden deaths of young people in Northern Ireland in the past couple of weeks. While the deaths are being attributed to taking drugs – either knowingly or having their drinks spiked – further forensic tests are required before any link between the fatalities can be established and whether the same drugs – if any – were to blame.

Yet, the mere fact that eight young people died in such a short space of time – five of them from the same area of Belfast – is a matter of public concern.

That is why the police handling of these deaths has been criticised. Public statements from the PSNI have given little away.

Indeed it took a statement from the Public Health Agency to reveal more details of what is suspected to have happened. Given the reaction of people on the ground and the intervention of a public health body, surely it was in the public interest for the PSNI to take a more pro-active role.

It is easy to say that even the dogs on the street know who is dealing drugs in certain localities – in this instance the finger of blame is being pointed at loyalist paramilitary figures – but unfortunately the dogs don't give evidence in court.

The PSNI need solid information to enable officers to make arrests and stand any chance of getting a conviction.

If drug dealers are indeed responsible for these deaths, then there should be no hiding place for them.

Police would actually stand a better chance of getting more public support if they provided more information of what has happened and if the evidence is of some linkage between the deaths.

If this series of fatalities had occurred in other regions of the UK there would be a public hue and cry, probably led by the police, for a clampdown on drug dealers.

Here we often seem to take a more softly, softly approach until the next tragedy occurs.

There is a culture of keeping people in the dark but this, surely, is a case for enlisting the help of the public to bring the guilty to justice.

Belfast Telegraph

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