Queen's banned IRA victim

October 4, 1996

The spectre of terrorism has returned to haunt Queen's University, Belfast, in spite of the precarious peace that still persists in the province.

Two weeks ago Sean Devlin was shot dead in front of a teenage girl by the organisation Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD), a flag of convenience title used by the Provisional IRA.

But 31-year-old Mr Devlin had already been banned for life from the students union at Queen's on suspicion that he was selling drugs. DAAD said he had been killed because of his activities as a drug dealer.

He was the organisation's eighth victim and his death has potentially damaging implications for the university as well as heightening already sharp political and religious divisions on campus.

Paramilitaries take on the role of self-appointed police, tackling persistent car thieves and vandals, as a way of gaining credibility in the areas in which they are based.

Queen's student officials are loathe to believe their action may have helped pin-point Mr Devlin as being, in the terrorists' terms, a "legitimate target".

But the students union has confirmed that it had permanently barred him from the union in October 1995.

Mr Devlin was not a student or a member of staff of Queen's but had become a regular figure there. He had been repeatedly refused permission to attend the Shine, a rave held regularly in the union.

Student union permanent secretary John Cousins said the decision to ban Mr Devlin came after advice from Queen's security staff, who are trained by the RUC drugs squad.

"In October 1995, I had information from our security staff that Sean Devlin was involved in the sale of illegal drugs," he said. "As the permanent secretary of the student union and disciplinary officer I banned him.

"I had suspicions and information from our security staff. Sean Devlin had no connection with the university, either as staff or a student so he was barred.

Queen's student union is proud of its relatively drug-free reputation despite the increased availability of soft drugs.

Drug seizures soared in the months immediately after the IRA and Loyalist terrorist ceasefires, ecstasy seizures alone by six times in the past year. None of the hauls has been at student buildings in Queen's, University of Ulster or further education colleges.

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