RAAD campaign of violence in nationalist areas puts UK City of Culture 2013 in the spotlight

This young girl sends out a powerful message to RAAD at a protest meeting at the Guildhall
This young girl sends out a powerful message to RAAD at a protest meeting at the Guildhall

THE ongoing campaign of expulsions and shootings of youths in nationalist areas of Londonderry is to feature in an investigation by the Guardian newspaper.

The violence perpetrated by the so-called Republican Action Against Drugs has been the subject of research by a crew sent to the city and will be published in print and online, in both written and video packages, sometime next week.

While it is generally accepted that there is a drugs problem in the city, as in many cities, a vigilante group sprang up here a few years ago claiming to target drug dealers. It operates only in republican and nationalist areas.

The probe focuses on how, as Londonderry moves into its year as UK City of Culture 2013, the dark underbelly of violence by RAAD is threatening to cast the city in a shameful light.

At a rally held to oppose RAAD in the Guildhall Square on Saturday, former MP and civil rights activist, Bernadette (Devlin) McAlliskey accused the city of being ‘deluded’ about both being a city of peace and of culture.

Mrs McAlliskey also said that there was worse housing availability in some areas than in the late 1960s, and that a food kitchen was being opened in Dungannon - and that RAAD and their ilk would do nothing to help combat growing social problems.

Fears have been expressed that Londonderry could end up like Limerick, with gun battles on the streets. Already, at least one suspected drug dealer has told a court in Londonderry that an illegal firearm was being kept for self-defence.

Meanwhile William Allen, the uncle of Andy Allen, who was murdered by RAAD said this week that rallies will help put the spotlight on RAAD’s activities though much more needs to be done. As well as shooting people it’s emerged RAAD offer leniency in return for forced public confessions, praising RAAD and its ‘intelligence’ gathering. One mother at a rally has told the Sentinel threats against two young men were not lifted because they refused to make a public ‘confession’, by admitting allegations even though they were not true. Others were offered ‘flesh wounds’ if they gave RAAD other names that could be targeted.

Mr Allen’s family are adamant that RAAD’s claims that he was killed because he was a drug dealer were rubbish. They say he was never threatened by that group. His was one of six names on a list, accompanied by two bullets, delivered to a community group in the Top of the Hill area last year. No one has admitted being behind that.

A parent of one of the six told the BBC at the time: “Between us all we have contacted all the dissident groups in Derry and they have all denied that they have issued any threat. We’re asking anyone out there if there is a threat, could they tell us what group has said them and for what reason. We don’t know why they’ve been threatened to be executed, they haven’t been threatened before.”

William Allen said this week the questions asked then had still not been answered: “This is quite a shameful episode for this city.

“We are still waiting for answers about Andy’s murder, but we are confident that we will eventually get them, including who issued the original threats in July of last year, why RAAD, having denied being behind the original threats, then murdered Andy, and who put them up to it.”

He added “My own feeling is that many disaffected young people were victimised over the years because they would not tow the republican line, and as a result of their treatment at the hands of masked bullies as young people, rather than being engaged by community organisations, they were marginalised and alienated. RAAD’s tactics will achieve the same as the Provos’, it will alienate more young people - but they aren’t so afraid of RAAD, and as the Peace and Reconciliation Group has warned we could have a vicious tit-for-tat cycle.”