A drugs twist to the UDA versus the Minister stand off?

Newton Emerson makes an interesting linkage between Margaret Ritchie, the Social Development Minister, and her stand off with the UDA over a raft of funding promised by the previous Secretary of State Peter Hain and a recent tarring and feathering incident:

The Independent Monitoring Commission says the UDA is “heavily engaged” in drug dealing. South Belfast UDA ‘Brigadier’ Jackie McDonald has a conviction for extortion. This is, of course, in no way connected to any extorting effect the tarring and feathering of an alleged drug dealer in south Belfast might have on social development minister Margaret Ritchie.

He also notes an acquiescent note arising from a local quarter of the DUP:

Belfast DUP councillor Ruth Patterson told reporters that the tarring and feathering was “regrettable” but “I do understand the frustrations of that local community”. Isn’t this what Sinn Féin used to say after IRA punishment beatings? Councillor Patterson is chairperson of the south Belfast partnership board, chairperson of the south Belfast district policing partnership and chairperson of Taughmonagh community forum. So if she doesn’t think the whole thing was a UDA stunt then it must be true. Mustn’t it?

Except that as Henry McDonald noted yesterday:

‘I wouldn’t mind if they (the UDA) were genuine in wanting to rid their community of drugs,’ one veteran loyalist said yesterday. ‘But they themselves are up to their eyeballs in drugs in the south of the city. I know people from the east who come over to this power either on Saturday night or early on Sunday morning to buy their coke. Maybe the guy they claim is dealing was queering their pitch.’

Which, given the campaign against her department’s plans for the redevelopment of the Andersonstown Police Station site, must make Ritchie one of the most publicly active and beleaguered ministers in the current Executive.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty