The news agenda has been dominated in recent days by the revelation that up to eight people may have lost their lives locally since May as a result of taking illegal drugs.
On The Nolan Show this morning, DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots accused the PSNI of turning a blind eye to the activities of some dealers in return for other information gleaned from these sources, calling for the PSNI to declare they won’t “give cover” to dealers.
But this exchange on UTV last night between PUP councillor, John Kyle, and Paul Clarke was most telling:
Paul Clarke: “Are the UVF dealing in drugs?”
Jonn Kyle: “I don’t know the answer to that question.”
The significance of a prominent elected representative of the UVF-aligned Progressive Unionist Party not being able to deny UVF involvement in drug dealing in 2013, at a time when eight lives have been lost through illegal drug use, should not be underestimated.
A south Belfast-based pastor, Paul Burns, said the drug suppliers were “only loyal to the wallet.”
“Those that push the drugs that get arrested are usually people that have addictive substance abuse problems themselves….It is the ones behind, who are pushing these tablets that are not got, you call them paramilitaries, the only thing they are loyal to is the wallet and making money for themselves.
They are not loyal to their country, they are not loyal to their community, they are peddling death, they are peddling murder and they need to be taken off the streets.”
The DUP Minister’s charge is one that police officers the world over face, and it is an obvious and somewhat understandable dilemma. As Paul Burns remarked, the low-level pushers often have their own addiction difficulties and police officers have to make the call as to whether or not to target them or to try to use leverage from these sources to pursue the ‘bigger fish.’
The PSNI have denied Edwin Poots’ charge in a subsequent radio interview on The Nolan Show, with the Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris claiming he was “stunned” by the allegations.