In Donegal on February 9th last, the vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs shot dead 24-year-old Andy Allen.
Now as then, the mere mention of drugs scatters all rationality. To question the right of RAAD to kill or maim is to invite an allegation of not caring about vulnerable young people.
The drugs issue is heaven-sent for any armed group looking for backing for violent action.
An array of respectable people can be counted on to step forward and endorse the armed group’s perspective on the problem.
Callers to ‘phone-in programmes will routinely repeat that the police are useless, the courts only administer mild slaps on the wrist, the prisons are like holiday camps, vigilante action is the only language these people understand.
Thus, today, many who fulminate against RAAD will then repeat word for word the RAAD propaganda line that somebody must take immediate drastic action to deal with a looming unprecedented disaster.
PR-trained PSNI spokespersons will emphasise that they take the drugs issue just as seriously as RAAD and could show better results if the vigilantes got offside and allowed them free rein.
The police and the vigilantes go into competition with one another as to which is better equipped for the task.
The results have been on display in Creggan and in other areas in the past few weeks.
Drugs hysteria solves nothing but suits many, and ends with character assassination, persecution and even death.
Meanwhile, the conditions which generate despair and alienation in the rising generation are left untouched.
Frank Shortt’s book should be required reading for all who are concerned about the path we seem to be headed down.