Throughout the conflict in Northern Ireland both Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries have exacted violent and sometimes murderous ‘punishments’ on those they accused of having wronged their communities. Since the 1990s, the accusation most commonly levelled against the victims of these ‘punishment’ attacks and murders has been one of involvement in the trade in illegal drugs. This brutal paramilitary ‘justice’ is one of the least researched aspects of the Northern Irish conflict. Such “rough justice” has persisted and even increased in ferocity in spite of ceasefire declarations by the leading paramilitary groups. There is some suspicion that the British State has at times been prepared to overlook drug related murders, even dismissing them as ‘internal housekeeping’ by paramilitaries.
No Dope Here? Anti-Drugs Vigilantism in Northern Ireland, draws on a wide range of sources including the author’s interviews with former paramilitaries, both Loyalist and Republican, former drug users and suppliers, victims of paramilitary shootings, beatings and exilings and their families, politicians, health professionals, academics, police and community workers.
This groundbreaking book examines the use of illegal drugs in Northern Ireland, from the relatively low levels in the 1970s and 1980s, through to the increased use and availability that occurred from around 1990 onwards. The different kinds of drugs in use and the related subcultures are explored, including the glue sniffing craze in the 1970s and 80s, the rave/ecstasy scene of the 1990s, the growth of small but significant pockets of heroin addiction, mainly in the North Antrim area (and the influence that the devastation wreaked by the 1980s heroin epidemic in Dublin had on Republican thinking and strategy), through to the growing use of cocaine and the erupting panic about the availability of so-called ‘legal highs’.
Lindsay’s book examines the deadly feuding that exploded within and between paramilitary groups as some factions became embroiled in drug dealing and describes the serial murders and kneecappings carried out by sections of the IRA, styling themselves Direct Action Against Drugs, in the period after the IRA ceasefire of 1994.
The reasons for paramilitary ‘punishment’ attacks (or” parallel justice” systems as some might prefer to describe them) are analysed . The community support that existed in some areas for swift retribution against anti-social acts is acknowledged, as are attempts by some paramilitaries to move towards more humane methods of ‘policing’ their communities. The physical, emotional and psychological impacts of ‘punishment’ attacks upon their victims are also considered.
The final section of “No Dope Here” looks directly at the ongoing vigilante violence that persists in some areas of the North, most notably in Derry/Londonderry and in parts of North and West Belfast. Much of this violence was unfolding whilst the book was being written and researched. There are extensive first hand accounts of this violence, the fear that it engendered, and the campaigns to try to bring it to an end. The book ends with a brief postscript looking at the amalgamation of Republican Action Against Drugs and the ‘Real’ IRA into a new organisation and the implications that this and other developments may have for the future. “No Dope Here” is available from most local bookshops and through the Junction Community Relations and Peacebuilding Initiative, call 02871361942
About The Author
John Lindsay, a yoga teacher and father of four, was raised in North Wales and moved to Northern Ireland in 1984. He is the author of Brits Speak Out – British Soldiers’ Impressions of the Northern Ireland Conflict published by Creggan based Guildhall Press in 1998. John ,with support and assistance from the Junction Community Relations and Peace Building Initiative, has spent most of the past two years researching No Dope Here? Anti-Drugs Vigilantism in Northern Ireland.