Belfast Telegraph

Drug support group calls on RAAD to stop attacks

By Brendan McDaid

Northern Ireland’s leading youth drug support service has called on a deadly vigilante group, operating in the North West to lay down their arms.

Opportunity Youth, which provides drug and alcohol support to young people, adult offenders and families, warned that the scourge of drug misuse cannot be cured through the barrel of a gun.

It urged the dissident grouping Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) to desist from its escalating attacks on young people, adding that professional help —not punishment attacks — will tackle drug use.

RAAD has been responsible for dozens of shootings, pipe bombings and death threats across the north west since 2009.

Earlier this year, the group took responsibility for the murder of Londonderry man Andrew Allen at the Donegal home he had moved to following a death threat.

On Wednesday, RAAD further admitted shooting 18-year-old Phillip O’Donnell in Creggan in the legs last week, and a 29-year-old Derry man at his home in St Johnston in Donegal this week. In the latter case the man was shot in both arms and both knees.

In a chilling statement, the group warned that “no amount of protests will stop RAAD operations”.

Anne-Marie McClure, the chief executive of Opportunity Youth, said that in the wake of the shootings, worried parents should be aware of the support available in the north west area.

“Drugs misuse amongst young people is a growing concern, not just in Derry but throughout the country,” she said. “Interventions such as groupwork, counselling and family support will ultimately make a difference to the lives of young people, not the barrel of a gun or other barbaric practices.

“I would appeal to anyone who may be affected by these issues to seek out professional support which will always be more effective than punishment attacks in bringing about long-term change.”

Opportunity Youth is based across eight sites in Northern Ireland including an office in the Springtown area of Derry.

Foyle SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood yesterday condemned the RAAD attacks.

Mr Eastwood, who last weekend spoke at a Guildhall Square rally in opposition to ongoing attacks by RAAD, said:“This city has a host of organisations with expertise in the treatment of those with addiction.

“It is they who will bring about individual resolution and help stabilise the fracturing of families which addiction can often inflict.

“RAAD have nothing to offer, only further damage and death.”

Referrals can be made by contacting members of the DAISY team either in Derry on 02871 371162 or any Opportunity Youth office.

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