A deadly business

Gerry Kelly reviews Godfathers: inside Northern Ireland's drugs racket by Jim McDowell, Gill & Macmillan £7.99 pbk

WHAT A task Jim McDowell has set himself! The northern editor of the Sunday World newspaper attempts to scrutinise and tease out the links between 'paramilitaries' and the rise of the drug trade post-1994 ceasefires.

He focuses on a number of individuals to illustrate his point, the majority of whom are now dead. Since publication at least two further drug dealers have been assassinated.

These developments and the murder by loyalists of the author’s colleague, Martin O'Hagan, on the 28 September 2001 raise the possibility of a follow-up book -- or, at least, a revised second edition.

However, this one fails for, all its endeavours, to deliver anything other than a rewriting of articles from the Sunday World newspaper.

A concentration on conjecture results in the book ending up as a mildly interesting but sensationalist read, but nothing more.

The author acknowledges society's longing for simplistic answers and the ever-so-slightly monochrome morality in the six counties, which has contributed to the rise of the drug problem.

The reader traverses Northern Ireland's communities, suffering from the effects of drug abuse on a scale never seen before, but is left with little more than littered biographies of people who have brought untold misery to their own.

All books should of course, have a beginning and an end. This one is different. It starts where it should have ended. Written in the prologue, this should have provided sufficient warning of the book's weaknesses.

Nevertheless, the author has been brave in attempting to tackle an issue so often disregarded.

February/March 2002

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