Saturday 23 March 2019

Revived IRA 'was behind expulsion of drug dealers'

Rumours of defections from Sinn Fein over 'spread of lawlessness'

JIM CUSACK

SECTIONS of the IRA appear to have reformed as rumours abound of defections from Sinn Fein in the wake of growing disenchantment in traditional republican areas over the spread of drugs and lawlessness, according to well-placed republican sources.

Reports from Tyrone say that former Provisional IRA members banded together and were responsible for the expulsion of nine suspected drug dealers from Dungannon in the past two weeks.

In a well-planned operation, the houses of the nine alleged drug dealers were visited by armed men who ordered all the occupants to leave the town and never return, the sources said. The town's police station was closed at the time because of a bomb scare.

The incident was not reported but has been confirmed by reliable local sources. One said it was an "East Tyrone operation", referring to the East Tyrone brigade of the IRA.

The operation in Dungannon was said to be a response to the stabbing to death of local man Eamon Hughes, a former republican. Mr Hughes was killed by youths on September 12 as he walked home from his daughter's 18th birthday party. The expulsions of the alleged drug dealers took place two nights later.

Local people said that the town has been swamped with drugs, including heroin, in the past year and that people's lives were being made a misery by the violent and disruptive behaviour of young drug takers.

According to sources in Dublin, the IRA has also moved against the Irish National Liberation Army which has been recruiting and has carried out at least four murders in the past year. The INLA has been kidnapping and extorting "protection" money from drug dealers in the North and in Dublin.

Republican sources said that the INLA demanded the drug dealers pay them €40,000 or be assassinated. However, the INLA has also run up against the IRA in Dublin and it is understood that two weeks ago a delegation of IRA figures met the INLA leadership and insisted it "deals" with one of its members who had threatened an IRA man in prison.

The IRA was supposed to have disbanded and decommissioned its weapons two years ago, but apparently it has held on to some weapons. An improvised rocket, manufactured 15 years ago while the IRA campaign was still going, was used to attack PSNI officers near Rosslea, in Fermanagh, in June.

The historic decision of the DUP to form a government at Stormont with Sinn Fein was dependent on the IRA disbanding and decommissioning its weapons in tandem with Sinn Fein supporting the PSNI. The IRA was also supposed to have given up punishment beatings and shootings and forced expulsions of people from nationalist areas.

Security sources in the North said that last month's rioting in Craigavon was orchestrated by former IRA figures. During the second of two nights of disturbances in the Tullygally and Drumbeg estates, sniper fire was directed at PSNI officers. Six police officers were injured in the violence, on August 24 and 25, during which pipe bombs and petrol bombs were thrown. Security sources said they believed the trouble was orchestrated by the former "North Armagh Brigade" of the IRA. Other rioting in Belfast and Derry over the summer was also blamed on "dissident" elements intent on damaging the power-sharing Assembly at Stormont, which is due to take over police and justice powers devolved from Westminster this year.

What is not clear, the sources say, is whether the re-emerging IRA is under the control of its former Army Council leadership, which included Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams and Martin Ferris, or whether it has a new leadership. Sources in the North said it certainly seemed that the IRA was re-emerging in areas where it had a traditional stronghold, mainly in response to widespread drug dealing and parallel increases in criminality.

The sources added that there was a great deal of confusion surrounding what was happening in the Sinn Fein-allied wing of the IRA but that former members had left in recent months, though numbers are not yet clear.

The decision by the party leadership to soften its socialist position on economic and what are termed "core" republican issues has led to resignations and defections to a group called Eirigi. Eirigi started life two years ago in Dublin when it is said about 30 members of Sinn Fein, including key electoral workers, left. The group has now spread to the North attracting members in west Belfast and other centres including north Armagh.

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