*****The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) recently awarded £186,000 to the “Time2choose” project based at Rosemount Resource Centre (RRC) in Derry. The money, it was said, would be used to help young people “at risk of paramilitary attack and/or recruitment into paramilitary groups.”
Friends and relatives of “punishment” attack victims are less than enthused about this funding award. They point to the close ties between management at RRC and members of the groups who have been threatening, and carrying out, “punishment” attacks. Funding RRC’s ‘mediation’, they argue, legitimises the threats and violence of unaccountable groups. The formalised role of RRC in passing on threats enables paramilitaries to issue more threats, and cause more hurt and distress to their victims, than they would otherwise be able to.
The job specifications of the posts funded with the IFI money make it clear that the onus is on victims of paramilitary threats and violence, rather than perpetrators, described as “threat making agencies”, to change their behaviour.
Rosemount Resource Centre’s ability to mediate with the groups who threaten violence against young people in Derry rests on the paramilitary groups’ choices. Paramilitaries (termed “threat-making agencies” by the IFI) have appointed Rosemount Resource Centre as their mediators. They will not talk to anyone else. Metaphorically, as well as literally, the paramilitaries are calling the shots.
The paramilitary group most likely to be threatening and recruiting young people in the Rosemount area is the “IRA” that emerged from the merger of the “Real” IRA and “Republican Action against Drugs” (RAAD).
Prior to the merger RAAD carried out a campaign of shooting, pipe-bombing and intimidation against the civilian population of the area. At this time RAAD claimed to be a single issue organisation, with a mission to eliminate what they saw as the scourge of drugs from Derry, claiming that they could achieve this through the use of violence against those who supplied them. RAAD announced in the Derry Journal that they were supporters of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. They told an interviewer from the Strabane Chronicle that they did not seek a united Ireland. RAAD in effect wanted to enforce British drug laws without the encumbrance of British legal safeguards such as Habeas Corpus.
In February 2009 a spokesperson for the “dissident” 32 County Sovereignty Movement was quoted in the Derry Journal asking whether the anti-drugs group might be a “pseudo-group who are in fact working for British intelligence”.
In their early days, RAAD had considerable support from a section of Sinn Féin in Derry. Some Sinn Féiners, in line with the party’s commitment to supporting accountable policing and constitutionalism, condemned RAAD’s violence. Others told me that they supported RAAD’s objectives and methods.
These methods included abducting and terrorising young people, dragging them into a van and beating them in an attempt to extort information, such as the names of friends who might have access to drugs, from them. Pipe bombs were left near the cars and houses of intended victims, usually in built up areas. Shootings were also carried out, often resulting in horrendous mutilations and disabilities.
RAAD’s behaviour became increasingly erratic and reckless. Pipe bombs found in children’s play areas in Strabane were linked to RAAD. In Creggan RAAD “volunteers”, said by eye-witnesses to be drunk, fired 85 shots over the heads of a group of women on Central Drive. The group were notoriously indiscreet. The identities of RAAD’s members were well known, their names had been published on a blog that received over a thousand hits over the space of a few hours. Still, the PSNI seemed unable or unwilling to take any action against them. To date there have been no prosecutions carried out in relation to attacks claimed by RAAD.
Between 2008 and 20010, RAAD’s victims were advised to contact a prominent Sinn Féin activist to find out what conditions the group wished to impose in exchange for sparing their lives. Conditions often included being ordered to make “confessions” that resembled those made at Stalinist show trials. A pattern was established. A shooting would occur, usually of a young man from a working class nationalist area of Derry. Friends of the victim, sometimes the victim themselves, would deny involvement in drugs, or whatever offence RAAD had accused them of, and this would be reported in the Derry Journal. The following week the victim would issue a statement in the Journal “confessing” to the sale of various types of drugs. Sometimes the shooting victims would add praise for RAAD’ to the “confessions” and even thank RAAD for showing them the error of their ways.
I accompanied one shooting victim to the Journal offices where a “mediator” had told him to report to a named journalist. He had been told by the mediator, a senior member of Sinn Féin, that unless he “confessed” to the sale of drugs he would be “executed”. Unsurprisingly he made the “confession” that was asked of him. Another victim of RAAD also told me that he had been instructed, by the same mediator, to make a “confession” to the same journalist.
Around the Autumn of 2010, something changed. A Sinn Féin activist, who had previously been supportive of RAAD, phoned me to say that he had changed his mind about them, he now believed that they were scoundrels, motivated by profit. The Sinn Féin mediator announced that RAAD would no longer work with him. He had in effect been sacked.
RAAD members began to be seen more and more openly in the company of anti-Good Friday Agreement Republicans linked to the “Real” IRA. Rosemount Resource Centre took on the job of “mediators” for the group.
In February 2012, RAAD murdered Andrew Allen at a house at Lisfannon in County Donegal. In March 2012, large numbers of people, including many Sinn Féin activists, took to the streets to demand that RAAD desist from their activities.
In July 2012 RAAD and the “Real” IRA announced that they were merging to form a new group styling themselves “the IRA”.