Why a mother took her teenage son to be shot by vigilante terrorists Republican Action Against Drugs
'I had to let him go. If I had not, the consequences would have been worse. It was hard, but it had to be done'
A senior PSNI officer has admitted that police have failed to tackle the growing menace of vigilante terrorists Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD).
Amid growing concerns over the actions of the group, Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin said he was "disappointed" with the police success rate against RAAD and that community help would "enhance our chances of getting RAAD before the courts".
His comments come as a number of mothers told this paper how their lives have been devastated by the actions of RAAD.
Majella O’Donnell described how she brought her son to be shot by the terror group.
She said: "I had to let him go. If I had not, the consequences would have been worse. It was hard, but it had to be done."
In their own words
As the national media suddenly take an interest in Derry’s brutal vigilante gang, Donna Deeney talks to four women caught up in the cycle of terror
Majella accompanied her 18-year-old son Phillip to an ‘appointment' with RAAD where he was shot after the group accused him of dealing in drugs.
It was a knock on the door and there was a masked man. I was told be up at a certain place and I came in and said to my son ‘we need to go now'.
He knew why, because previously he had been told ‘you are involved in drug dealing and we are not going to have this. If you don't come now we are going to leave you in a wheelchair'.
I shook hands with him (her son) and said ‘good luck' and I let him walk on down the hill.
I knew what he was feeling, I knew how scared he was and I let him go on down and I saw the men coming towards him and I just turned my back.
When I heard the two shots I started to run down the lane and my heart kind of went when I saw him lying on the ground. He was white and I said: ‘Are you all right son?’. He said: ‘Mammy, I am OK.’
I had to let him go because that is the way it is when there is a punishment shooting. If I had not, the consequences would have been worse. It was hard but it had to be done.
Before he would not accept that he was doing any harm, but he has said: ‘I am going to get help now'. I know it is bad and some people will ask how could I do what I did.
Sometimes I think am I not a good mother, but my son is there, he is alive and he got off lightly.
It was something that had to be done to save him. He knows I love him and I will always stand by him, no matter what, and I told him that night but I was powerless to stop it. It might have been brutal but he is not dead, he is not dead. He is alive.”
Donna is the mother of Andy Allen (24), who was shot dead by RAAD in his home in Buncrana in Co Donegal, where he had moved to after being ordered to leave Londonderry
All I feel now is anger and disgust. Who gave them the right to do what they did? They are just a murderous gang who say they are doing this for the community but if that is the case why do they need masks and hide their faces? I don't believe the community wants them at all.
Andy was my son and he had two children of his own who now have no father. They slandered my son in a statement because they knew Andy was dead and could not defend himself, but I will be his voice from now on and I will never stay silent.
Now is the time for every mother of every person RAAD has ever threatened, shot or ordered to leave this city to stand up and speak out against them.
Don't wait until they target someone else, do it now before it is too late. Now is the time before someone else is hurt or murdered.
Part of me died the day he died and they took him away from me, and they took him away from his two children too.
Every minute of the day I torture myself about why they did this and I ask: was he murdered because he was from a mixed family — is that why he was the only person they shot dead?
RAAD never actually issued any kind of a threat against Andy, it was the dissidents, but the police couldn't say which dissident group it was. He was told to leave the city, which was why he went to Buncrana across the border but they followed him and that makes me think they were determined to kill him.
It was RAAD that claimed to have killed him but it was the dissidents who were the ones who threatened Andy. It makes me think that they are all mixed in together.
I just don't understand any of it, all I know is it hurts so much to be without my son.”
Kathy is the mother of a young man who has left Derry after RAAD threatened to ‘punish’ him for anti-social behaviour. He is currently out of the city and is living at a secret location
I have a son and there is just no getting through to him. He does have problems and I have tried to get him help but it is just not out there.
I do understand how people feel about him, people who work hard and have a car and then my son takes it. I understand the community wants something done but RAAD is not the way.
My son eventually got a referral to Newry (drug and alcohol rehabilatation centre) but before I could get him there he got these threats against him. My son took off like a rabbit because he was afraid. Eventually we went to the Peace and Reconciliation Group, who were brilliant. I do not know what I would have done without them.
I didn't know how to get my son out of Derry but they are an intermediary group and they told me to go to a certain place and meet certain people. I don't know if these people were RAAD or men who would take what I said back to RAAD, but I went and I told them about how my son had the referral to Newry and how we were trying to get him sorted. They said if my son went to Newry I could come back to them in three months and see how it would go.
When I think about it, I get angry at them. Who are they to say who stays in the town or who goes? They have already beaten him up and left him with an arm he can hardly use and even though I do understand why the community would be against my son because of anti-social behaviour, the way to do things is through the police, no matter what people might think about the police.”
Bronach works at Dove House Community Resource Centre helping young people with drug problems. Along with other mothers she formed MOVE ON after RAAD threatened four young people in the city.
After RAAD threatened four young men in city who got into a fracas outside a bar with them, a few mothers in Creggan came together and decided to form a group, which is how MOVE ON came to be.
It stands for Mothers Opposing Violence Everywhere in Our Neighbourhoods and one of the first things we did was to hold a protest on the Peace Bridge and release hundreds of white balloons.
The group is made up of mothers whose sons have been threatened but there are also community workers like me, trained in working with young people and those who take drugs.
Rather than allowing us to do our work, RAAD come in and railroad everything we do and shoot these young people. They think that this is the way to get rid of drugs, but all they are doing is making things worse and they are solving nothing.
It's not a matter of taking your son to be shot and the wounds heal and that's it, there are the mental scars that are left behind.
RAAD do not have the answer and we would say to them: let us do our job, we are dealing with the bigger picture.”
The price of a mother’s love
By Donna Deeney
It is a mother's instinct to protect their young. This week I spoke to mothers in Derry who were all driven by this instinct when their sons came under attack from the vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs.
Their stories have one common thread — the treatment their sons received by members of this organisation and the paths they now find themselves on as a result of that. One thing that struck me from talking to these women is the undeniable love they have for their sons, and that is something that every mother can identify with.
Not every mother will have to face the problems these women have had to, most of us will thankfully never get the phone call or the visit from the police telling us that our son's life is under threat from a group like RAAD.
Many will ask questions about the actions of Majella O’Donnell, who took her son to be shot by RAAD. She asks the same questions of herself.
Sadly, she genuinely believed that she had no choice. She did what she did to keep her son alive. As she said: “He is not dead.”
Those four words sum up the basic instinct of a mother, to keep her child alive even though many may find it hard to comprehend what it was like for her to have to do that.
Likewise, the life of Donna Smith is also now changed because RAAD shot dead her son and robbed her of her child.
She has vowed to speak out against RAAD at every opportunity, and what mother could not understand that? Even if the thought of addressing a large crowd at a rally would terrify most of us, as mothers we can understand what is driving her to do it — it is a mother’s love for her son.
Kathy Lishman has also decided to go against her initial instinct to not draw attention to herself and go public about how her son had to flee his home and live somewhere secretly, because she wants something better where it is not faceless men who say which mothers can be a part of their sons’ lives and who must live apart.
This mother's instinct is a powerful tool, it was the foundation and driving force that formed MOVE ON, a new group that wants a better society for the next generation but that also knows that the next generation will do better with the hands who rock the cradle, rather than in the hands of gunmen.
Glowing alarm in republicanism
By Eamonn McCann
It’s not a story until somebody in London says so.
That’s been the faintly cynical response of many local journalists to the outburst of interest, particularly across the BBC, sparked by Monday’s front-page Guardian piece on Republican Action Against Drugs.
The real problem with RAAD is that it doesn’t fit easily into the neat pattern of the approved narrative. This would have it that far-seeing political leaders have coaxed their warring peoples away from conflict and towards peace and a fair settlement. Republicans who continue to operate in the shadows and to use violence are thus automatically identified and roundly denounced as die-hard opponents of the settlement.
This isn’t an adequate or accurate description of RAAD. The organisation emerged about three-and-a-half years ago, mainly from within the ranks of the Provisional IRA. In its first interviews, in north west outlets, it claimed to be supportive of the Agreement and was concerned to emphasise that it was not a “dissident” organisation in the sense in which the word is commonly used in political discourse.
Its self-proclaimed mission was not to get rid of the Good Friday Agreement, but to rid society of “drugs”.
What has come to characterise RAAD, however, is not what it uses its guns for, but the fact that it uses guns.
Its maiming and murdering of working-class youngsters might for a time have been accepted as “internal housekeeping” by political and security chiefs. Now, however, having maintained its momentum and the moral fervour associated with anti-drugs rhetoric everywhere, and having developed the traditional republican sense of entitlement to enforce its will in the name of “the people”, RAAD poses a challenge to the authority of the political institutions established under the Agreement.
By and large, mainstream republicans are now alarmed and genuinely outraged at RAAD’s dismissal of all appeals to end its attacks. The outfit is disowned and denounced as a “micro-group”, a “criminal gang” and so forth.
The more this attitude hardens, the greater the area of common operational ground likely to open up between RAAD and, so to speak, the real dissidents.
Now that it’s out there, the story isn’t about to go away.