Questions raised over drug deaths and PSNI

By an East Belfast Socialist Party member
Protests have taken place in East Belfast in response to the deaths of six people from the area (and three others) suspected to be drug–related. All of those who died were in their 20’s and 30’s, with the local community squarely pointing the finger at the role of a number of local paramilitaries accused of involvement in the supply of contaminated ecstasy tablets.
On Monday 10th July around 45 community groups were represented at a protest on the Newtownards Road calling for drug dealers to leave the area. In his speech Mark Houston of the East Belfast Mission stated “all over the world the power of communities, and the power of people raising their voice together, eventually means that people sit up and listen… Those who are doing this, and dealing in this poison, take it elsewhere”.
To a greater or lesser degree, paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, loyalist and republican have had, at the very least, individual members implicated in the drugs trade. There is little doubt that a number of well-known loyalists in East Belfast are currently involved in the supply of drugs; loyalists who have also played a key role in fermenting sectarian strife at the Short Strand interface. Questions must be asked why the PSNI, who spend hundreds of thousands every year on informers, have not yet acted on these individuals.
Peter Robinson and other politicians in the area have issued statements calling on the PSNI to act, but imply the solution to the drugs problem in the area is simply a matter of law enforcement. Problems associated with paramilitarism and the supply and abuse of drugs cannot be divorced from the wider social malaise afflicting poorer working class communities in inner East Belfast and beyond, characterised by high rates of poverty and unemployment, low educational attainment, high suicide rates and poor mental heath. These problems are being compounded by the right-wing policies of the politicians at Stormont and Westminster whose cuts to benefits and services have a disproportionate impact on these areas.
Community activists, trade unionists and young people in East Belfast and beyond must unite not only to challenge the scourge of paramilitarism and drug dealing, but also fight the attacks on jobs, benefits and services that deepen the deprivation and fight for the money and resources that will ensure their areas are a good place to live.

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