Belfast Telegraph

Dissident group threatening drug dealers 'have lion's share of the drugs market' says UUP's Doug Beattie

UUP MLA Doug Beattie has said that republican groups who threaten to use violence to keep drugs off the streets often have the "lion's share" of the drugs market themselves.

The Ulster Unionist Party’s justice spokesperson, Doug Beattie MLA, was speaking after a shooting in west Belfast on Thursday in which a 20-year-old man was shot in the legs.

It comes after a new armed dissident republican group calling itself the "Irish Republican Movement" (IRM) said it would "actively target crown forces" involved in policing republican commemorations.

The IRM is understood to be made up of former Oglaigh Na hEireann members who declared a ceasefire earlier this year.

They also said that anyone involved in selling drugs within the nationalist community must stop immediately or "penalty is death".

The group warned people involved in general criminality that they too will be at risk.

"Yet again we have seen another disturbing and appalling shooting of an individual in west Belfast by so called self-styled vigilantes linked to a variety of violent republican groups.  While some would want to call this – or refer to it – as a punishment shooting, I am clear it is no more than vile individuals using any excuse to terrorise, intimidate and coerce their own communities through threats of violence," Mr Beattie said.

"These individuals say they are trying to keep drugs off our streets or deal with anti-social behaviour but in reality what they are actually doing is ensuring they have the lion’s share of the drugs trade market.

"Without a doubt the PSNI have a major role to play in removing these individuals from our streets and I welcome the work of the Paramilitary Task Force.  But this is also terrorism in its most basic and direct form and the use of the Terrorism Act 2006 should be used to target these groups."

The Upper Bann MLA said a threat made against the Probation Board must be addresed.

"It is also important that communities and society as a whole begin to face up to these thugs and any pre-arranged shootings, beatings, intimidation or coercive action by these thugs should immediately be reported to the PSNI and robust action taken," Mr Beattie said.

“There also remains an issue with the Probation Board Northern Ireland (PBNI) and the important role they have to play within communities with vulnerable ex-offenders who may well be coerced into taking part in these type activities. It is important that the threat the PBNI are currently under from republican paramilitaries is both assessed and that action is taken to address that threat, in order to safeguard the public. 

"In the meantime, anyone who is being targeted by these thugs should immediately go to the PSNI with any information they have and the PSNI should be proactive in taking action."

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