Republican News · Thursday 10 July 1997

[An Phoblacht]

Plastic bullet leaves boy in coma

By Eoin O'Broin

Over 2500 plastic bullets have been fired at nationalists since the Orange march through Garvaghy Road last Sunday. In Belfast alone over 30 young people have been hospitalised and scores more wounded. One 14 year old boy from West Belfast is fighting for his life in the Royal Victoria Hospital after being hit in the head with a plastic bullet.

Young Gary Lawlor was hit in Lenadoon on Sunday evening after the RUC opened fire on groups of young people returning home from a disco on the Falls Road. Lawlor, who was staying with his aunt in the area, was shot in the back of the head when the RUC opened fire without warning. The 14 year old immediately lost consciousness and was taken to a nearby house before being taken to hospital. As we go to print Gary has yet to regain consciousness. His parents have not left his bedside since he was taken to the RVH for treatment. In a statement read to the public by his cousin Janet Donnelly on behalf of Gary's distressed parents they called for the immediate banning of plastic bullets.

Maíre Walsh was hit on the side of the mouth with a plastic bullet at the time Gary Lawlor was shot. She had been to a teenage disco and along with two friends left their friend home. It was as they turned to return along the Stewartstown Road that the RUC fired on the teenagers indiscriminately.

13 year old Maíre told An Phoblacht that there was no rioting at the waste ground where she was, that the RUC pulled up in jeeps, disembarked and fired. ``I heard a click and turned round to see what it was and it was then I was hit. The doctor said that if I hadn't turned round I might be dead now''.

The young girl and her friends managed to run and take cover behind a memorial to 13 year old Julie Livingstone, herself a victim of a plastic bullet fired by the RUC in 1981.

``They kept on firing at us. I heard them laughing at us,'' she said.

It was during this incident that Gary Lawlor was shot and both teenagers were carried to a house on Doon Road from where they were taken to hospital.

Later on that night the RUC attacked the house, firing plastic bullets into it, shooting the woman of the house on the leg.

The RUC also carried out a number of savage beatings on nationalists in both North and West Belfast. In Oldpark, Martin Murphy was knocked down by an RUC jeep while walking to a local pub. The RUC men proceeded to kick and hit him about the body as he lay on the ground. In hospital afterwards he received 13 stitches to the head and was treated for severe bruising.

Meanwhile 25 year old Aisling Jennings was shot in the leg when a live round was fired by the crown forces from New Barnsley RUC barracks in the early hours of Monday morning. Jennings was brought to the RVH where she was treated for a fractured bone.

Jennings, a mother of a seven month old child, told An Phoblacht, ``I left a friend's house early on Monday morning, thinking everything had quietened down, and was shot from Henry Taggart barracks. The doctors aren't sure if I will fully recover and they might have to put a steel pin in my leg''.

At a Belfast press conference on Tuesday 8 July, called to highlight the brutality, Sinn Féin councillors Chrissie McAuley and Michael Browne attacked the RUC for their ``gross misconduct'' and demanded that plastic bullets be immediately banned.

``In opposition the British Labour party had a clear opposition to the use of plastic bullets. Now that they are in government I call on them to honour their policy position,'' said McAuley.

Michael Browne accused the RUC of contravening every guideline on the use of plastic. As the accounts and injuries of those injured shows, the RUC are going out of their way to cause serious injury and even attempting to murder people''.

Speaking at the press conference Rosaleen Walsh, mother of 13 year old Maíre asked ``how could I ever teach my children to respect the RUC when the RUC don't respect the nationalist community?''

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