Belfast Telegraph

Vigilante gang RAAD: exiles can return... but on our terms

By Eamonn MacDermott and Brendan McDaid

A deadly vigilante group has said that those it has expelled from Londonderry can now return — but only on its terms.

The move by Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) was broadly welcomed by politicians and community activists on Thursday night, with some now calling for RAAD to go further and disband.

RAAD has offered what it claimed was a “small number” of people ordered to leave the city an opportunity to return.

The group said that if any individual who had been forced out “interfaced” with genuine community groups in Derry they could come back.

It is understood that the number of people alluded to is in single figures.

Earlier this week the Belfast Telegraph interviewed the mothers of some of RAAD’s victims, who had faced the impossible situation of having to take their sons to be shot ‘by appointment’. In its latest statement, RAAD disputed claims made in some media outlets about the numbers ordered to leave the city, with one newspaper claiming that as many as five young people a week were being ordered out.

The terror group said it had actually ordered out very few people and that the claims were being put forward to try and discredit it. Those who have acted as intermediaries with the families of those threatened have welcomed the news.

Hugh Brady is a community worker from the Rosemount Resource Centre, which has tried to resolve threats against almost 100 people over the past two years.

He said: “We welcome the statement. We would hope nobody would be put out of the city and we are delighted that those that have are now being allowed to come back.”

Michael Doherty, director of the Peace and Reconciliation Group (PRG) in Derry, said: “I would welcome the young people coming back into the city. They should never have been under threat in the first place.

“I would urge RAAD now to enter into negotiations with everybody around the table — by everybody I mean all community groups and politicians, as well as the PSNI.

“I would also call on them to extend their statement to say they are also stopping any further punishment beatings and shootings,” he added

SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood called on RAAD to lay down its weapons and disband.

Mr Eastwood said: “I welcome the fact that the people will now be able to come home and I hope that the RAAD statement includes all the young people who have been expelled by them.

“I hope RAAD realise what is needed now is for them to leave the stage to allow us as a community to deal with whatever issues we have in a democratic way.”

RAAD, however, said it would continue to defend the republican community and repeated its warning against what it described as “death dealers”.

The PRG and the Resource Centre have offered to help facilitate the safe return of the exiles.

The Resource Centre’s Mr Brady said: “If any of the families need help to get them back we would be more than willing to help them with this.”

PRG director Mr Doherty added: “If we are contacted to help, then we will be involved in the people’s return.”

Background

In the past 11 months RAAD has carried out 12 paramilitary-style attacks, the majority of which were in Derry, resulting in a total of 16 casualties. Most of the victims were young men who were shot in the legs, but last February RAAD admitted the murder of Andy Allen in his home in Co Donegal. Widespread revulsion at the killing prompted hundreds of people to protest against the republican terror group.

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