The faltering New IRA has discussed murdering a drug dealer in Belfast in a bid to shore up support.
Details of the plan emerged as a number of people in Ardoyne were told by police to step up their security.
Well-placed sources told Sunday Life the New IRA viewed killing a drug dealer as an easy way to win support in republican communities where its stock is at an all-time low.
“Even Sinn Fein supporters wouldn’t have a problem with the New IRA doing that,” said an insider.
“Killing a drug dealer has been discussed at a leadership level. If it is to happen, it would likely be in Ardoyne, where there is one on nearly every street.
“Republicans of all shades are getting sick of seeing dealers driving around in their fancy cars and putting pictures of their luxury holidays on social media while they struggle to make a living.”
The New IRA murdered Ardoyne drug dealer Kevin Kearney (46) a decade ago as he went for a morning run around a north Belfast park.
Since then it has largely been involved in failed attacks on the PSNI, but these have ground to a halt since its 2019 murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry.
The jailing on remand of the New IRA’s alleged leadership the following year after an MI5 sting operation has resulted in it becoming almost defunct.
In a desperate bid to resurrect the terror gang, its leaders in Belfast have discussed murdering a drug dealer.
Sources said the one sticking point was that many of the city’s biggest drug barons paid protection cash to other republican groups such as the INLA and ONH (Oglaigh na hEireann).
The rival organisations joined together in 2018 to kill cocaine kingpin Jim ‘JD’ Donegan as he sat in his Porsche sportscar outside the gates of his son’s west Belfast grammar school. The 43-year-old was targeted because he refused INLA and ONH extortion demands.
“The New IRA doesn’t want any conflict with the INLA or ONH, so it has to be careful which dealer it chooses to kill,” added our source.
“There are a couple of obvious ones in north Belfast, people who live in republican areas like Ardoyne, and who are basically easy targets.
“The New IRA will justify murdering one of them by saying that they were getting drugs off loyalists to poison their community.”
Former Provos living in Belfast are also known to be increasingly concerned about the significant increase in drug dealing in republican areas. Criminals high on crystal meth rampaged around Ardoyne last month, stabbing a taxi driver in the neck, badly beating a man and petrol-bombing a house during a late-night wrecking spree.
These drug-fuelled scenes are repeated in other communities most weekends.
Vigilante gang Action Against Drugs (AAD), which was set-up by the IRA in 2012, is also understood to be considering whether to target a drug dealer.
Over the past 10 years it has murdered Belfast drug dealers Danny McKay, Dan Murray and Joe Reilly.
AAD was also blamed for the 2015 killing of former Provo Kevin McGuigan, who was shot dead in revenge for his alleged role in the execution of IRA boss Jock Davison.
The terror group also has maimed more than a dozen other individuals in gun attacks, including Harry ‘O’ McMahon, who survived being shot in the head.