Pubdate: Sun, 15 Feb 1998 Source: Sunday Times (UK) Contact: HIDDEN AGENDA TO IRA HITS ON DRUG DEALERS A BOY aged 16 became the latest victim of drugs in Northern Ireland last week. He collapsed and died, with his distraught girlfriend at his side, after taking ecstasy which he may have mixed with other substances. The parents of the schoolboy, from Larne in Co Antrim, have told police they want no publicity because they wish to grieve in private and also to avoid having the son they loved branded a drug user. While the scale of the drugs problem in the province is growing significantly, the teenager is one of a very few to have died from an overdose. Most deaths involving drugs are of dealers shot by the IRA. Brendan "Bap" Campbell was the ninth person to be killed by Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD), a cover name used by the IRA, when he was shot outside a Belfast restaurant last week. DAAD emerged in April 1995, during the first IRA ceasefire, but the terrorists had murdered dealers before then. In October 1992, the IRA shot dead Samuel Ward and wounded eight others in a purge against the Irish Peoples' Liberation Organisation (IPLO), which it claimed was heavily involved in pushing drugs. The IPLO was disbanded under threat of further attacks. In April 1994, IRA members tortured and then shot Francis Rice from the republican Markets area of Belfast, accusing him of being a drug dealer. Dozens of others have been ordered to leave their homes, or shot in "punishment" attacks. Republicans openly justify such killings of "enemies of the nationalist community" and cast themselves as guardians against drug barons. The murders are tolerated by sections of the nationalist community, who revile drug dealers more than terrorists. Few tears were shed for Campbell, 30, who drove a flashy sports car and enjoyed a lifestyle far beyond the means of the people who bought his drugs. Yet Campbell was murdered not because he sold drugs, but because he refused to play by the IRA's rules. Unlike other dealers, he refused to give terrorists a percentage of his takings in return for their permission to operate. There is evidence that DAAD is being used not to eliminate the sale of drugs, but to enable the IRA to control the lucrative trade. Police and dealers say the IRA controls the distribution of drugs to criminals on both sides of the border. Narcotics are smuggled into Ireland through Dublin and Cork and distributed after prices and quantities are agreed at meetings in hotels in Dundalk and Drogheda. The IRA does not handle the drugs, but oversees the operation and takes a percentage from each deal. In return, it sanctions the dealers' activities and moves against their opponents. Campbell openly defied the IRA. He shot an IRA gunman who tried to kill him in 1995 and was one of two men who launched a grenade attack on Sinn Fein's headquarters in Andersonstown in November last year. Last month the IRA took its revenge by shooting him twice in the chest as he sat drinking in a Belfast bar. He survived because he was wearing a bulletproof vest. Shortly afterwards, Campbell and an associate travelled to London and met gangsters. They discussed setting up a supply route for consignments of ecstasy, cannabis and other drugs into Northern Ireland. They wanted to establish a freelance operation and made it clear that the IRA would not receive any of the profits. Associates believe Campbell's killers were told about his movements by another dealer who was given a stark choice: accept the IRA's terms and turn in Campbell, or be killed himself. They point to recent drugs seizures in west Belfast as clear evidence that the IRA is now an important player in the drugs scene: on Wednesday, two days after Campbell was killed, ecstasy tablets with a street value of £67,000 were found in the Ballymurphy area, an IRA stronghold. One former close associate of Campbell's said: "He was not killed because the IRA is opposed to drugs, but because he wouldn't play the game by their rules. "People have got to realise that the IRA is up to its neck in drugs. Nobody would even think of selling drugs in west Belfast unless it gave the okay. The IRA could wipe out the drugs scene in nationalist areas in a very short time, but it doesn't want to. It only wants to wipe out the opposition."