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8 November 2007 Edition

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UDA drug dealers blamed for teen's death

BY PEADAR WHELAN

THE news that the South East Antrim Brigade of the UDA handed over a number of weapons to be decommissioned may have been a welcome development but this was soon drowned out by the sound of angry mothers protesting against UDA drug dealing in the Tiger’s Bay area of North Belfast.
The women from the Tiger’s Bay area, a UDA stronghold, took to the streets after the death of 16-year-old Dean Clarke, who killed himself after taking drugs supplied to him by a UDA drug pusher.
According to reports coming out of the area, members of the so-called mainstream UDA are still heavily involved in drug dealing and members of the community who have confronted the dealers have been threatened by the loyalists.
The death of Dean Clarke, however, has galvanised people in the staunchly loyalist area to stand up publicly to the UDA and demand an end to their drug peddling and intimidation.
People are also angry that the dealers are pushing drugs to children that are normally used to tranquilise horses. The drug, dubbed ‘blues’, provokes depression in humans and it was after using the drug that Dean Clarke hanged himself. He died at the weekend, six days after taking the drug.
That the UDA is under pressure from residents in the Tiger’s Bay area is not in doubt. Frankie Gallagher, of the UDA-aligned Ulster Political Research Group, unconvincingly declared to the media on Sunday, 4 November, “the UDA is unequivocally opposed to all drug dealing”. But that statement cut no ice with the women of Tiger’s Bay demanding the UDA gets off the back of the community.
The protestors have also castigated the PSNI over its refusal to move against the pushers who, residents say, are working as informers.
Meanwhile, the news that the breakaway South East Antrim Brigade of the UDA, which now calls itself Beyond Conflict, decommissioned a number of weapons in the last week will not convince nationalists, or working-class Protestants, that they are safe from attack from loyalist paramilitary groups as only as many as a dozen guns were destroyed.
Three members of Beyond Conflict, including a former British soldier, are said to have transported the handguns and rifles to the British Army base at Ballykinlar, County Down, where they were decommissioned under the authority of General John de Chastelain and the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.
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