August 21st, 2014

South East Antrim UDA flooding the streets of NI with cocaine

Northern IrelandBy Richard Sullivan
Clifford Irons
Clifford Irons

The UDA is today exposed as Ulster’s top drug dealing criminal gang.

A Sunday World special investigation has revealed the terror group controls drug running rackets from north and east Belfast to Carrick and Larne in east Antrim.

Cocaine is the currency and the drug business runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, raking in tens of thousands for the organisation while making UDA commanders very wealthy men.

Carrick is a town in the grip of the UDA – nothing moves in the coastal town without the involvement or approval of the leadership UDA in the rogue South East Antrim Brigade headed up by Gary Fisher. 

The criminal gang has such control on the flow of drugs that anyone selling narcotics in east Antrim is working for the UDA.

Every week local commander Clifford Irons ensures Fisher gets his cut. 

Bundles of cash are handed to the SEA chief in Rathcoole, and in return Fisher turns a blind eye as the local UDA make a fortune from the drugs trade.

It is a cosy relationship that has allowed Irons and his team of runners to make a killing.

The Sunday World has spoken to a number of well placed loyalist sources in the town who claim information about the UDA’s drug dealing has been passed to the PSNI, including details of known members addresses, car registrations and locations where they sell drugs.

Carrick UDA buy their drugs from criminal gangs in the north of England, notably Manchester and Liverpool, and the narcotics are then smuggled into Northern Ireland hidden in cars. The gear is brought in through either Larne from Scotland or on the Holyhead to Dublin ferry route before being driven north.

We understand they are able to buy cocaine for £300 an ounce, before cutting it and selling it on at rate of £700 an ounce. Sources have told us the the profit margins can be as high as 500 per cent depending on far they cut the drug.

“There is never any shortage of drugs in Carrick, there’s no such thing as a drought down here,” our source told us.

“They sell drugs round the clock, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, they are open for business.”

The favoured drug is cocaine. The organisation operates a ‘dial-a-drug’ operation where drugs are delivered to an agreed location. We are also aware of at least two licensed premises in the borough where drugs are openly bought and sold.

We are also aware of the identities of Irons’ trusted lieutenants. The drug delivery driver carries a legally held shotgun everywhere he goes, he is backed up by a man and two brothers who have a history of violent robberies.

Irons – also known as Trigger after the famously thick Only Fools and Horse character – stays at arms length from the drugs business, except when it comes to the money. 

He personally delivers Gary Fisher’s cut of the business, the rest is his to do what he likes. The criminal proceeds are laundered in a number of ways including buying and selling cars.

Sources have told us Irons is reluctant to be seen as a face of the UDA, insisting on maintaining a low profile. He controls the drug racket from behind the scenes. 

It is only in recent years that the organisation became so heavily involved in the highly lucrative drugs racket.

Originally it had been Andre Shoukri who had overseen the introduction of drugs into South East Antrim. Fisher saw the potential for making a fortune and when Shoukri was jailed Irons saw his opportunity. 

At the time he was second in command to then Carrick commander Thompson Gilmore – the only problem was he was vehemently anti-drugs.

But with huge cash dividend on offer it was only a matter of time before Gilmore was sidelined.

“Gilmore was old school,” said our source. “he was the sort of leader you could approach, if had a problem he would try and sort it for you. 

“He was totally anti-drugs, but the UDA/UFF was his life. When they took that away from him it sort of killed him.”

Gilmore was stood down for “family reasons” and while he remains within the Carrick UDA, he has been completely cold shouldered by his former sidekick Irons who likes to portray himself as a successful businessman. 

The father of one who is in his late 30s runs a taxi business, a car repair shop and breeds dogs. He also runs CC Cars, a second hand car business at Kilroot Business Park on the outskirts of the town.

In reality he heads up an organisation that is not only the main drugs supplier in Carrick but which also services neighbouring Larne and Ballyclare.

The fact he is allowed to operate with impunity has raised questions not only within the community but within his own organisation. 

Police have raided a number of homes in recent months, some of which belong to his trusted lieutenants. Items have been seized and on at least one occasion one member was caught flushing drugs down the toilet.

Irons’s home on the Castlemara estate was untouched and the alleged dealer caught disposing of drugs was back dealing within days.

Sources have told us they believe Irons is working with the police. Crime levels in Carrick are low because Irons and his mob run the town.

We revealed last month that police were tipped off about the planned UDA invasion of Larne. An estimated 100-strong mob rampaged their way through the town attacking two houses as a warning to drug dealers.

Questions were raised as to how such a large mob, many of them masked and carrying baseball bats and other weapons, and led by Irons, was allowed to make their way to and from Larne unchecked.

At the time of the incident Chief Constable designate George Hamilton said Irons’s UDA mob were power mad.

“This faction of the UDA seem to want to have some power or legitimacy within communities and it’s very important that the community themselves don’t do anything to give legitimacy to these groups.”

The then Assistant Chief Constable said a number of Irons’s unit had been arrested.