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Why has no-one been charged with the murder of these men?
Eleven cannabis dealers have been murdered in Northern Ireland, victims of the IRA’s Direct Action Against Drugs vigilante killings. So far, no one has even been questioned in relation to the killings...
Eamonn McCann, 13 Feb 2008
Among those who have died from drugs in recent times in Ireland are Francis Rice, Samuel Ward, Mickey Rooney, Anthony Kane, Paul Devine, Francis Collins, Christopher Johnston, Martin McCrory, Ian Lyons and Sean Devlin.
They were all accused of being pushers and gunned down by the IRA.
Francis Rice, 23, was shot five times in the head and dumped in a ditch at Lenadoon in west Belfast on April 25, 1994, four months before the IRA ceasefire. He’d been selling cannabis. Eight others were struck down before Sean Devlin, 31, father of two, was killed by four bullets in the brain on September 16, 1996. He had been due in court next morning charged with possession of cannabis.
The 10 deaths, inflicted under the cover-name Direct Action Against Drugs, were authorised by middle-range Provo leaders in Belfast who either disapproved of moves towards ceasefire and disarmament, or were alarmed at the extent of disapproval in the ranks. An outlet for discontent other than targeting State forces was needed. Blowing the heads off individuals who could be projected into the public mind as purveyors of evil and a threat to the young was as safe a way as any of providing release.
Fear and panic over drugs can be a godsend to godfathers – State as well as paramilitary.
You want people to tolerate tough measures that trash due process, convince them it’s the only way to extirpate a deadly threat to their children.
The ceasefire broke down in February 1996 and was reinstated in July 1997, paving the way for the talks which led to the April 1998 Agreement. Some believe the process couldn’t have been kept on track through this rough period without the safety valve of the drugs killings.
Nobody in authority was minded to risk the negotiations for the sake of dead pushers. Nobody has ever been charged. I cannot recall an arrest for questioning. In any ordering of the dead of the 30-year conflict, the victims of the IRA/DAAD rest at the bottom of the pile.
If the IRA had specific reason for giving its gunmen the go-ahead to stalk and stiff alleged drugs dealers, the killing spree enjoyed general support, or at least wasn’t opposed, far beyond its own ranks. It provided a perfect paradigm for a paramilitary group out to keep control of its own turf even as its political raison d’etre faded away. Or, as with Loyalist groups, when they’d never had much of a political mission anyway.