Republican Action Against Drugs have been engaging in something of a PR drive in Strabane of late. The group, which claims to target drug dealers in republican areas has been mainly active in the north-west (i.e. Derry and Strabane) since last year, but have also claimed responsibility for a recent shooting in Newry.
During election week at the start of May, the group released this photo to Strabane Chronicle journalist Conor Sharkey. It shows gunmen saluting dead RAAD member Roger McLaughlin. McLaughlin was arrested in connection a punishment shooting of a young man in Lisfin Park in the town in April. The RAAD member later took his own life.
The renegade punishment squad have stepped up their campaign against individuals they label as drug dealers in Strabane. They have claimed responsibility for a number of shootings, beating, arson and pipe bomb attacks. Their latest activity however involved another image released to the local media during the week.
The photo (seen above) handed over to the Strabane Chronicle on a digital memory card depicts 5 members of the group in full paramilitary regalia armed with AK47 rifles. They are standing around a hooded figure with his hands bound and dressed in a boiler suit. In the modern age the image immediately draws parallels to the Abu Ghraib style ‘mock execution’ photos that caused so much international revulsion back in 2004.
RAAD claim the man is a drug dealer who handed himself along with his drug wares over to the group in response for leniency. The supposed drug haul is pictured on a table alongside weaponry and ammunition. RAAD claim to have handed the drugs over to a local community worker and released the man unharmed, but they have issued a warning that they have a list of 12 alleged drug dealers in Strabane who they will be targeting.
Republicanism in Strabane has become something of a confusing Pythonesque parody of late with RAAD, RDA (Republican Defence Association), RDA (Republican Defence Army), OnH (Óglaigh na hÉireann), along with the remnants of the PIRA and INLA imposing their presence on the area.
The fact that a story appeared in the Newry Democrat last week where a source is quoted as claiming RAAD are DAAD (Direct Action Against Drugs) “reborn” has only confused matters further. That story, along with claims from some locals has fuelled speculation connecting RAAD with ex-provisional IRA members, who are still in the pro-GFA camp, rather than members of any dissident republican faction.