Sunday 18 February 2018

Republicans and loyalists linked to deadly drug

Paramilitaries in unholy alliance to traffic ecstasy that has left 10 dead

POTENT: pills have killed 10
POTENT: pills have killed 10

JIM CUSACK

An unholy alliance of northern loyalists and dissident republicans is behind the trafficking of the new brand of ecstasy which has caused the deaths of 10 young people on the island of Ireland in the past two months.

The PSNI has arrested three men with links to loyalist organisations and gardai made a major seizure of the drug, along with 80 kilos of herbal cannabis, in north-west Dublin at the end of last month.

Crime has brought the former enemies, who fought each other during 30 years of the Troubles, together and into heavy involvement in the drugs trade.

It is understood loyalists have been sourcing the ecstasy, which is causing deaths because of its greater levels of potency, in northern England and Scotland where they have traditional links with organised criminals.

During the Troubles loyalists used their criminal supporters in Liverpool and Glasgow to help import weapons into the North. The residue of the Troubles ending was that some loyalists moved heavily into drug trafficking, followed by the dissidents including former Provisional IRA members.

In recent years loyalists and dissident republicans have put their pasts behind them and formed an alliance, carving up drugs distribution in their respective Protestant and Catholic communities.

Working-class areas of Belfast, which were drugs-free during the Troubles as paramilitaries shot drug dealers, are now as rife with drugs as any similar area of Dublin, sources in the North say.

Gardai were surprised to find direct links between the group terming itself the 'Real' IRA and the €5m worth of ecstasy and cannabis found at a lock-up in Blanchardstown at the end of May.

Previously, the group was known only to extort money from "civilian" drug traffickers. A 41-year-old man, with no links to organised crime or suspected of being a member of the dissident group, was arrested.

It is understood he was hired to work by the terror group in an effort to distance it from being linked directly to drug importation.

The 350,000 ecstasy tablets are similar in brand to the drugs being sold in the North where seven young men from Belfast and a 29-year-old woman from Coleraine have died in recent months.

Deaths began to spread to the Republic in recent weeks with the death last weekend of the 29-year-old daughter of a retired garda in Dublin and also the death of a 19-year-old student rugby player from Wicklow two days earlier.

The same toxic ecstasy has also caused deaths in northern England and Scotland and may have originated in Canada where there have also been 25 deaths linked to a brand of ecstasy known as "Dr Death".

The tablets of similar strength here have various names and the PSNI has issued warnings to young people to avoid one brand known as "Green Rolexes".

The victims almost all die from heart seizure and most have mixed the drug with alcohol and cannabis.

Irish Independent

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