Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

15 October 1998 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

Drug dealers in youth entrapment

By Laura Friel

A systematic attempt to entrap young nationalists into acting as drug dealers has been exposed after a number of young people came forward and asked for help.

Tommy Holland, a community worker with the Upper Springfield Resource Centre in West Belfast, said he had been approached by a local teenager who had been driven to contemplate suicide after becoming entrapped by a drug dealer. The young person had been targeted over a number of months by a drug dealer who cajoled the teenager into taking a small quantity of drugs. After ensuring the teenager had become sufficiently indebted, the dealer's attitude changed. Fears of exposure and threats of violence left the teenager vulnerable to manipulation. Pay up or work the debt off by selling drugs, was the stark choice he was offered.

It soon became clear that this was not an isolated case after a number of other teenagers came forward and admitted their involvement in selling drugs in West Belfast. ``All the young people who came forward and asked for help spoke of a great sense of relief,'' said Tommy, ``they had come through a nightmare of fear and despair.''

The full story started to unfold. Drug dealers, some later identified as loyalists, had not only been entrapping young nationalists into acting as dealers within their communities but are pursuing a strategy of targeting places where children and teenagers gather - youth clubs, parks and playgrounds, and schools. Children as young as 10 and 12 years of age are being targeted as well as teenagers and young adults. A similar pattern has also been identified by residents and community workers in the Beechmount area of the Mid Falls. Danny Murphy, a local youth worker, is particularly concerned about the encroachment of a drug culture amongst school children. ``The vigilance of parents and teachers plays a key role in protecting young people from becoming the prey of ruthless drug pushers,'' says Danny.

Members of Dublin based ``Concerned Parents'' groups have been advising community groups in West Belfast and just as in Dublin, local people are prepared to take to the streets in direct action against anyone involved in selling and distributing drugs within their areas. Last Wednesday around 200 residents staged a silent picket outside the homes of two women who had been identified as drug dealing within the Upper Springfield area. Video evidence of drug dealing activities of the two households had been authenticated by local community workers before residents took the decision to ask those involved to leave the estate.

``We were very conscious of the fact that there were children in the house,'' said one resident, ``no one wanted to frighten or intimidate anyone. We all stood quietly outside while two people went up to the door and handed in a letter asking the family to leave.'' Both families have applied to the Housing Executive to be rehoused away from the area.

In Beechmount a young woman who was involved in selling drugs to children as young as thirteen was also asked to leave the area. Other members of the household were not asked to leave.

Residents in the Mid Falls area also moved to clear a local park which had recently become the focus of drug dealing and abuse. ``We're reclaiming the park for the children of this area,'' said a resident. Tommy Holland is determined not to allow the many decent young people in the area to become stereotyped as `druggies'. ``Young people gathering at street corners may be targeted by drug dealers but that doesn't mean teenagers don't have the sense to say no.'' Tommy cited a recent case where a group of teenagers chased a drug dealer who approached them in a car. ``The dealer was left in no doubt that he and his wares were not welcome in the area, `` said Tommy. For any young person caught up in the abuse of drugs the message is clear. Don't live in silence and fear.

There has been a recent upsurge in the number of young suicides in West Belfast, This community is determined to do all we can to prevent any more people being sucked into the vicious circle of drugs.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1