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."Reuse content