That was a shocking case in Buncrana, Co Donegal the other day, wasn’t it? A young 24-year-old, the father of two children, shot dead by a group called Republican Action Against Drugs. A Derry priest says that near to 40 people – including this young man - have been driven out of Derry by the group. This man made the mistake of coming back, apparently, and has paid the price. The group “are imposing their law on people as judge and jury and now executioners” Fr Michael Canny says. How can this be allowed to happen?
Simple – because there's a degree of support for it in the community. The official line is that these people have intimidated the community, have no support but people are afraid to speak out against them. I’m sure that’s partly true. But I’m equally sure that there are people in the community who know the stupidity and hopelessness of the “war on drugs” that we’re told is being waged here and throughout the Western world. Can there ever have been a longer and more unsuccessful war? Everyone knows that drugs, soft and hard, can be bought. When a parent sees his or her child at risk or suffering from the ravages of hard drugs, they feel desperate and helpless. To hope the police or the judicial system will solve the problem for them and their child is hoping for the impossible. And so, when they see a group which drives drug-pushers out of the community, do you think they draw back and say “But this is lawless! This is abhorrent!” Uh-uh. They may not say it aloud but they are glad, very glad that someone, anyone is lessening the chances of their child’s life being ruined. They don’t give a damn if it’s against the law or encouraging the law of the jungle, or even if it results in the death of one of the drug dealers. A similar attitude obtained during the Troubles, when the IRA and other groups knee-capped anti-social elements in the community. If you see every other avenue closed to you, you turn to the people who will solve your problem for you, and very glad you are to do so. The wider ethical issue of an orderly society governed by the forces of law and order? The hell with that.
The case of this unfortunate 24-year-old raises two issues, then. One is the international war against drugs, which is unwinnable, and it’s time the authorities stopped mouthing platitudes and tried another route. The other is the question of support in the community for groups like Republican Action Against Drugs. The “republican” tag is a joke; but so too is the claim that nobody wants them or their judge-jury-executioner approach. As long as the problem remains and people see the forces of law-and-order failing to act with similar swift effectiveness, they’ll have the support and even gratitude of some - in fact quite a few - in the community.