Irish Republican News · February 25, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
PSNI prepare to use CS gas weapons

Deployment of controversial CS gas spray by the PSNI police appears set to go ahead after the force advertised for components of the weapon.

PSNI chief Hugh Orde won support from both the Police Ombudsman and the Policing Board for the introduction of the spray last February.

However, the spray can damage eyesight and cause rashes and breathing difficulties.

Maggie Beirne of the Committee for the Administra-tion of Justice (CAJ) said tendering of the weapon's component parts made the need clear for guidelines which can be open to public scrutiny.

"As we understand it the board endorsed the use of CS spray subject to guidelines being introduced," she said.

"We haven't heard any more about who is working on the guidelines or what training is planned for officers.

"CAJ has taken no position on the use of CS spray. We are concerned that there hasn't been a proper debate on it."

The Pat Finucane Centre, which believes the spray presents "huge dangers" to people with some existing medical conditions, also called for proper public consultation.

"This was backed by a secret meeting of the Policing Board, which raises very serious concerns," Paul O'Connor of the Derry-based group claimed.


Meanwhile, nationalists have expressed anger after a report claimed that PSNI police were right to fire nearly 30 plastic bullets during clashes in east Belfast.

Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan claimed the use of the missiles helped restore order.

She said: "There is overwhelming evidence to support the police use of baton rounds at this point.

"All evidence suggests that the baton gunners acted entirely within the relevant guidelines."

The Ombudsman was investigating the PSNI's actions during clashes at the peaceline dividing the Catholic Short Strand enclave from the rest of Protestant east Belfast.

The Ombudsman praised the police for firing on nationalists -- even thought they were under heavy assault at the time from loyalists throwing petrol bombs and bricks.

"The use of baton rounds during the riots was lawful, justified and proportionate," she insisted.

"The available evidence supports the conclusion that the discharge of baton rounds in addition to other tactics contributed to eventual order being restored in the area."

Her report infuriated Joe O'Donnell, a Sinn Féin councillor in the Short Strand.

Mr O'Donnell said the PSNI had failed to protect his community.

He said: "I am very disappointed the Ombudsman has reached that conclusion. People here will be shocked and disgusted.

"If the police had acted to help the residents of the Short Strand then there would not be so many of them injured and still requiring treatment.

"Mrs O'Loan's report is open to serious question to say the least."

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© 2004 Irish Republican News