IRA denies drugs link after police seize ecstasy: Authorities accused of propaganda offensive

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The Independent Online
THE IRA has denied dealing in drugs following raids in Dublin and London that police say netted a substantial haul of narcotics.

Gardai have confirmed that drugs, believed to be ecstasy, were found on Tuesday during 'Operation Madronna' searches in Dublin aimed at those involved in raising funds for the Provisional IRA. In London, Scotland Yard said its simultaneous raids had uncovered illegal drugs, said to be worth pounds 80,000.

In a statement, the IRA denied it dealt in drugs to finance its campaign and accused police of launching an orchestrated propaganda offensive against it.

Three men detained in the Dublin raids were released yesterday without charge. Two were from Dublin and the third was of Italian origin.

In the Dail, the Taoiseach Albert Reynolds called for increased protection for nationalist areas in Northern Ireland in the wake of the latest sectarian killings of Catholics by loyalist paramilitaries.

Expressing concern at the rising level of loyalist killings, he added: 'It would be reasonable for those providing such protection to expect that in that situation they themselves would be free from attack.'

He pointed out that 8 of the 11 paramilitary murders in Northern Ireland this year had been carried out by loyalists, while 87 of 137 charged with terrorist offences belonged to loyalist organisations.

He emphasised that security forces would continue to search for illegal weapons both before and after a cessation of violence. He was responding to an opposition question on IRA arms caches, prompted by the comment by Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at the weekend that no surrender was required from the IRA as part of a peace settlement.

Mr Reynolds backed up Sir Patrick's statement and reminded the Dail that in January he had also laid down that 'it is generally agreed that there will be no surrender on any side . . . and surrender terms are not acceptable to any side.'

Two men were shot in loyalist and republican attacks in Belfast yesterday. A 24-year-old Catholic sex shop assistant was critically ill after being shot in the head by the Ulster Volunteer Force.

The victim, named locally as John Foster, from Antrim, was attacked when three gunmen entered the Soho bookstore in Gresham Street in the city centre.

A few hours later, a 34-year-old Protestant standing in the street opposite his home in the Suffolk area of west Belfast was shot in the arm by an IRA gunman from a passing car.

The IRA alleged their target was a leading loyalist.