Republican vigilantes conducting a campaign of shootings and beatings have in the past year forced more than 200 young men out of Derry, Northern Ireland, which will become Britain’s City of Culture next year.
At least 85 men have been shot over the same period in “punishment” attacks by Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), according to police figures.
In some instances those targeted, mostly in their teens or early 20s, have been forced to turn up with a parent or relative for a pre-arranged appointment to be wounded for alleged drug dealing and other crimes.
Martin McGuinness, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) ex-chief of staff-turned deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, made an unprecedented move calling on the public in his native city to inform on the republican paramilitaries responsible. Figures from community organizations in Derry mediating between RAAD, the Real IRA and the victims show up to four men are being forced out of the city every week.
As Derry prepares to be the UK’s City of Culture, the families of those under attack, including the mother of a RAAD victim who was murdered in February, say they are living “in a city of fear.”
Derry-based John Lindsay, author of No Dope Here, a new book on the violence, said: “On average, there are about four young men being forced out of the city by RAAD and other vigilante groups per week.”
The vigilante campaign turned murderous in February when RAAD gunmen shot dead a former Derry boxer, Andrew Allen, 24. His family say the hardline republicans were so affronted when he stood up to them that they killed him. Allen’s mother, Donna Smith, said the peace process no longer meant anything to her or her family.
“How can they call this the City of Culture when they [RAAD] are going around butchering children? Something has to be done, it has to be stopped before another family is sitting in the situation that we are in: me without a son, my other children without a brother and two small children without a father,” Smith said.
There have been several demonstrations against the attacks, including one last month. Just before, an 18-year-old was shot in both legs.
McGuinness described the vigilantes as “the new oppressors of the people of Derry.”
“I think it is quite obvious the community is beginning to rise up against this and as a result of that it is quite clear that RAAD are about to make the biggest mistake of their lives,” he said.