Belfast Telegraph

Why are terror gangs still able to run drug empires?

Lindy McDowell

Amid the understandable grief, outrage and shock which has reverberated throughout this place following the deaths of eight young people from what is suspected to be a deadly batch of drugs, there's been the predictable hand-wringing of officialdom all over the show.

First up, First Minister Peter Robinson announcing that the police "need to act". (A bit of action from Mr Robinson and his fellow elected representatives might also be in order. And no, I don't just mean yet another public service TV ad campaign).

The truth is the whole damn lot of them, police, politicians, lawmakers, should and could have acted long, long ago.

The deaths of those eight young people – and every one of them is a tragedy and a terrible loss – could and should have been prevented.

For the drug taking and even the drug dealing is not what primarily lies at the root of this horror.

The real disease in this place is what it always has been.

Paramilitarism. And official acceptance thereof.

That is the most potent, poisonous contaminant in Northern Ireland.

Encouraged by the flaccid, "let's not rattle their cages too much" approach of the authorities, paramilitarism has been allowed to flourish and multiply like botulism.

The drugs business was always going to be an obvious target for men and women without morals, scruples or care for who they hurt or whose lives they destroyed.

Drugs business is big business because drug culture is now mainstream culture. It's what kids do these days. Maybe not all young people. But very, very large numbers of them.

It isn't just an underclass thing or an Asbo thing. It isn't confined solely to unionist areas or even to working class areas. Middle-class kids take drugs, too.

They are part of a generation who no more think it unusual to pop their chemical stimulant of choice than the middle-aged school teacher thinks twice before pouring herself a nice glass of pinot after a rough day with Lower Sixth.

The difference is that the wine drinker can depend on the integrity of the wine maker and what he is allowed to put in the bottle.

With illegally manufactured drugs there are no controls.

Not everybody who deals is a paramilitary.

But everybody knows who controls the trade here. In both unionist and republican areas, paramilitary gangs are in command. Everybody knows this.

In unionist areas the drug trade is run by the UDA, the UVF, the LVF and assorted hangers-on.

The "defenders" of their community? The Ulster Dispensary Association. The Ulster Volunteer Farmacy ...

"Leading loyalist" Jackie McDonald's priggish, pathetic remarks about how there's no such thing as a "loyalist drug dealer" are as contemptible as that posturing buffoon himself.

For everybody knows which outfits are up to their necks in drug dealing.

The police know it. The politicians know it. The churches know it.

But where, down the years, have the voices of outrage been (aside from a few honourable community workers and those involved in anti-drugs groups)?

It does take courage for a politician to speak out against the paramilitaries – in both a personal (look what happened to Alliance during the flag protests) and in a political sense.

But the failure of unionists to take on the drug overlords does not go unnoticed in areas where the strutting self-appointed, self-serving brigadiers and supreme commanders and their ugly trade are viewed with revulsion.

Time to act?

Long, long, long overdue.

Belfast Telegraph


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