Reporter Paul Murphy and producer Frank Shouldice blog ahead of tonight's programme:
Picture this frightening scenario: You are at home and masked men come knocking at your door. They are looking for your son. They say he has been selling drugs or has been causing a nuisance in the area. They don’t have any hard evidence of any crime, simply the word of others. They offer you a choice: you bring your son to an appointed place at an appointed time for him to be shot in the legs -- or don’t bring him and expect them to kick down your door and shoot him anyway. In the legs, or maybe worse.
This is the awful choice that has been presented to dozens of parents in Nationalist areas of Derry by a group called Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD). Set up four years ago, RAAD bomb, shoot, exile and threaten those that they decide are guilty of drug dealing or anti-social behaviour.
Tonight, Ciaran McFadden, a former IRA member whose son was recently shot in the legs by RAAD, talks to Prime Time. He describes how RAAD members came to his door alleging that his son was involved in a fight outside a pub in which another RAAD member was injured. RAAD wanted vengeance and they got it. Ciaran tells how he accompanied his son and his nephew to the RAAD appointment and stood yards away as two RAAD members shot both young men in the legs.
RAAD are a small organisation with an estimated 20 to 50 members. But they are having an extraordinarily chilling effect on a city that is the 2013 UK City of Culture. There are no precise figures but Derry-based author John Linsday, whose ‘No Dope Here? Anti-Drugs Vigilantism in Northern Ireland’ is due for publication later this year, says there were at least 26 RAAD shootings in the Derry area which resulted in casualties and that the group have detonated 21 pipe bombs. Community activists estimate RAAD has threatened around 200 young men from Derry and exiled as many as 30 in the last three years. It’s a big problem for a small city.
In February, RAAD carried out its first murder, shooting Derry native Andrew Allen in his rented house in Donegal. The killing of Allen, a former amateur boxer from a religiously mixed family, provoked the first significant public demonstrations against the group. RAAD have tried to paint Allen as a drug dealer, but this portrayal has been rejected by his family.
Despite the recent waves of revulsion against RAAD, the group it is growing. It has gone beyond its original self-ordained role as anti-drugs vigilantes into targeting those it judges to be guilty of anti social behaviour. But in a potentially a very significant change, RAAD told Prime Time that they intend to begin targeting the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). RAAD also told Prime Time that while they initially supported the Good Friday Agreement they have now turned against it. This would represent a further headache for the PSNI, whose success against RAAD has been poor with no prosecutions yet for any RAAD shooting and only three prosecutions for other crimes committed by suspected members of RAAD. The PSNI say that they need more cooperation from the community to get convictions, and point out that even those that RAAD has shot are typically too afraid to give adequate witness statements. If RAAD starts to target the PSNI, as their representatives told Prime Time, that means the dissident threat to the peace process in Derry is about to get significantly bigger.
Paul Murphy & Frank Shouldice
Prime Time, RTÉ 1, 21:35