Mother mourns son Andrew Allen who was shot dead in republican war on drugs

Known vigilantes target suspected dealers in Londonderry

Donna Smith projected a mixture of anger, puzzlement and grief as she sat in the parlour of her small terraced house yesterday and spoke about the self-appointed vigilantes who earlier this year killed her son.

Does she know them? "Of course I do, I know some of them," the Londonderry housewife answered. "I know who they are. I've seen a few of them since they shot Andrew, seen them around the town.

"It's very, very hard for me – I just turn the other way because I'm so angry that I'm afraid of my own self, that I might say something to them. I don't want to do that, I want this done proper – I want them arrested and sent to jail."

Andrew Allen, who was 24 and unemployed, was living across the border in Donegal with his partner when his mother got two phone calls in quick succession. The first was to say he'd been shot, the other to say he was dead.

"Boys came to the door and banged it," she said. "Andrew jumped up and they shot him through the window."

The people who gunned Mr Allen down were not from the dissident republican groups who seek, through sporadic bombings, to revive the old campaign of violence. Instead they belong to RAAD – Republican Action Against Drugs – which is made up of a number of former IRA members in Londonderry who have been attacking or threatening what they claim are drug dealers in the city. So far this year they have "knee-capped" five young men, ordered several more out of the city, and carried out one murder, that of Mr Allen, who they claimed was a major drug dealer.

His fate baffles his mother. She told The Independent yesterday: "They're saying he was a drug dealer. He was a heavy drinker and he was no angel but no way was he the big dealer that they're saying. He never had money – he would borrow money off everybody and there were times I had to buy him clothes."

RAAD, as she points out, "come from republican areas and there's a lot of people who won't go to the police because of that. At the same time I think they're afraid, afraid of a backlash by RAAD against them."

It is obvious that for nearly everyone in Londonderry, once a stronghold of the mainstream IRA, the war is now long over. But what is evident is a tolerance in some quarters for what is viewed as vigilante activity against drug pushers. "There have been rallies against RAAD, but they haven't been well attended," said one republican ex-prisoner. "To be honest, there isn't a great public revulsion against them."

Hugh Brady, a respected community worker, said yesterday: "Basically what you have here is a hangover from the Troubles. And the community are more afraid of drugs than they are of any armed group – they're terrified of drugs taking a hold."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss