With Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) claiming responsibility for recent shootings and threats in anarchic Londonderry, in the Belfast Telegraph Eamonn McCann provides some clarity on the vigilante group’s background.
News reports which have lumped RAAD in with the Real IRA or Continuity IRA are wide of the mark and a source of confusion.
RAAD was founded in 2008 by members and recent ex-members of the Provisional IRA in Derry. It made its ‘debut’ in April the following year, admitting responsibility detonating a pipe bomb at a house in the city.
In its first ‘authorised’ interview, in the Derry Journal in August 2009, the group explained that, “There is absolutely no political agenda within our organisation”. Confirming the group’s provenance in the Provisional IRA, the representative claimed that “rank-and-file members” of Sinn Fein were “fully supportive” of it activities.
Widespread irrational attitudes to drugs are another factor helping sustain RAAD’s activities. It was observed in the same Journal article that, “The organisation is now – rightly or wrongly – considered by many to be at the cutting edge of eradicating drug-dealing in the North West”.
The leaders of mainstream republicanism who played midwife at the birth of RAAD will have seen it as a means of keeping order in the community by cracking down on criminality and ‘anti-social behaviour’, which the PSNI wasn’t yet able to handle.
In this perspective, RAAD, far from being a challenge to the political settlement, has been an ancillary organisation helping prepare the way for the settlement to take hold.
Sinn Fein now seems set to adopt an altogether sharper line against RAAD. Over the past two years, the group has developed a momentum of its own and seemingly deepened that sense of entitlement to impose its will on the community, which has always been a hallmark of republican paramilitaries.
If it isn’t challenging the peace process, RAAD now challenges Sinn Fein’s status and standing in the community to an extent which has begun to alarm local party leaders.
[That’s not in the public interest! – Ed] Indeed.