Source: An Phoblacht/Republican News
Contact:  12 Nov 1998
Author: Ned Kelly


Two weeks ago a major drug dealer moved out of the Rathenraw estate in
Antrim and another agreed to cease his trade. Ned Kelly talked to residents
who have decided to rid the estate of the drug menace.

Within easy access of Belfast International Airport, Larne and Belfast,
Antrim is ideally situated for drug dealers to ply their trade. According
to one Rathenraw resident, ``there has always been an element on the estate
involved with drugs but over the last three or four years the intimidation
and violence of these drug dealers has intensified.''

Walking through the estate, the group of residents pointed to the burnt out
shells of buildings where drug dealers had first intimidated families out
and then burnt the houses; every empty house represents a personal story of
fear and tragedy.

Near a house in Sussex Square that until last Wednesday housed one of the
estate's five main drug dealers, stand 15 empty houses bearing testament to
the dealers' reign of terror. Residents report that not only do the Housing
Executive fail to consult with them about drug dealers being given homes in
the estate but they are also reluctant to act when contacted by residents.

The litany of attacks on residents is almost too vast to list. For example,
three youngsters beaten up for crossing the green one drug dealer claimed
as his own; a seventy year old woman who had petrol poured through her
letter box by a drug dealer because he thought she had seen him petrol bomb
another home; a woman attacked with a metal poker by a drug dealer as she
walked home with her children, her fingers broken in the assault.

Two residents raised the issue of RUC collusion with the drug dealers:
``during a picket last week, the druggie threatened residents with a
crossbow. The next day, after our action the RUC raided his house and found
UKP2,500 worth of drugs, a machete and a crossbow but he was back out
within a couple of hours. That night he used another crossbow to threaten
one of the people who had been at the picket.''

Another resident claimed ``you can see the attitude of the peelers in their
response times. If anyone calls them about an incident they can take 30 or
40 minutes but if the dealers call 999 the RUC is here within ten minutes.''

Martin Meehan, the local Sinn Fein respresentative, said, ``the residents
contacted me during the Drumcree stand-off this year saying that none of
the statutory agengies, the RUC, the council and the Housing Executive had
been prepared to offer them any help. Antrim town has been used as a
dumping ground for problem cases; the social problems that can be clearly
seen in Antrim are the result of years of failure by the statutory agencies.

``Residents need to be supported but statutory agencies also need to take
responsiblity to act decisively. The area needs an injection of capital and
a new outlook from the statutory agencies.''

A resident said, ``it's not only that the dealers operate so openly, but
they are using children as runners. These children are very vulnerable,
they can be corrupted by the money these drug dealers have.''

Two weeks ago Rathenraw residents met in the local community hall to decide
what could be done. From that meeting came the decision to mount nightly
peaceful pickets outside the houses drug dealers were operating from.

The success in forcing one dealer to quit the area and another to give up
his trade has led to a growing sense of confidence in the community.

One younger resident said, ``people from here and other estates are coming
up to me and saying `you're doing a great job' but the problem is trying to
turn that support into action.''

Another resident picked up the point. She said, ``people are scared of
these drug dealers, they have been attacking and victimising people for
years but the truth is we are all scared. It is important we make this
stand, it's about our grandchildren coming up.''

Residents were also thankful of the involvement of republicans. One said,
``we tried contacting loads of different agencies and organisations but no
one helped us. Without the support of Sinn Fein this whole campaign would
be much more difficult. It is also important that a few people had the
courage to stand up and be counted.''

Three factors stand out in this community. Firstly, there is a chronic
shortage of facilities especially for young people. Secondly, Antrim town
is a virtual no-go area for nationalists with the almost weekly Friday
night loyalist band parades often leading to serious trouble for
nationalists. One resident said, ``some of it is sectarian but some of it
is just gangs of drunken men beating the shit out of anyone who is an easy

Thirdly the unacceptability of the RUC and their apparent unwillingness to
deal with the drug dealers. One resident expressed the opinion that the
``RUC won't intervene because the Special Branch is using the dealers as
touts and as a tool for keeping tabs on republicans to prevent them gaining
more support in areas like this.''

Meehan added, ``we must put pressure on the Housing Executive and the local
Unionist-dominated council to get its act together. It is no use expecting
the RUC to do anything. It is about people from local communities standing
up and demanding their rights and combating their marginalisation.'' 
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Checked-by: Mike Gogulski