17 reasons for banning plastic bullets
17 reasons for banning plastic bullets

By Jim Gibney (for the Irish News)

Frank Rowntree (11) April 1972, Tobias Molloy (18) July 1972, Thomas Friel (21) May 1973, Stephen Geddis (10) August 1975, Brian Stewart (13) October 1976, Michael Donnelly (21) August 1980, Paul Whitters (15) April 1981, Julie Livingstone (14) May 1981, Carol Ann Kelly (12) May 1981, Henry Duffy (45) May 1981, Nora McCabe (30) July 1981, Peter Doherty (33) July 1981, Peter Mc Guinness (41) August 1981, Stephen McConomy, (11) April 1982, Sean Downes (23) August 1984, Keith White (20) April 1986, Seamus Duffy (15) August 1989.


All innocent. All dead. Killed by rubber and plastic bullets.

Seventeen reasons why plastic bullets should be immediately banned.

Seventeen reasons why the Policing Board should not have voted two weeks ago for the PSNI to acquire these deadly weapons.

Seventeen reasons why the SDLP, the Catholic hierarchy and the Irish government should have refused to endorse the PSNI until plastic bullets were banned.

Plastic bullets have been used here for one reason only: to strike fear into the population.

They are a blunt and brutal instrument in the hands of British state forces who have no respect or regard for the people they fire them at, mainly nationalists.

Of the 17 killed 10 were children.

Over 100,000 rubber and plastic bullets have been fired since they were introduced onto the streets of Belfast in August 1970.

In addition to those killed hundreds of nationalists have been maimed for life.

A number of people were blinded in both eyes, some suffer brain damage others are crippled. Only six weeks ago Emma Groves, blinded by a rubber bullet in 1971, died. A mother of 11 children she tirelessly campaigned for the banning of plastic bullets.

This is this bullet’s human legacy.

Those who were killed were hit on the head from point blank range or hit on the chest.

Those who fired the fatal shot were members of the British army or the RUC. They broke their own regulations doing so.

Only one RUC man has ever been charged with a killing, that of Sean Downes, and he was acquitted.

Plastic bullets have become one of the most corrosive and corrupting influences on what passes for politics in the six counties.

Once fired, a plastic bullet wreaks devastation not only for the person injured or killed and their family but for society as a whole.

The pattern of corruption has been well established. It was revealed in the mid-nineties in a document presented by Artur Fegan to senator George Mitchel on behalf of the United Campaign of Plastic Bullets.

Immediately after a plastic bullet has been fired a cover-up begins, involving the state, its political establishment and elements of the media.

The person who fires the bullet provides a self-serving account to protect himself. His superior officer supports his story.

The British Secretary of State backs up the version.

Anguished families seek justice in the only court left open to them, a coroner’s court. Those who killed their loved ones refuse to attend. No one compels them to attend. They send self-serving statements. Statements can’t be cross-examined.

The legal system ignores the voice of the injured party. A precedent has been set: immunity for those who kill with plastic bullets.

For the families of those killed the injustice of the killings is made worse by the legal system’s failure to establish the truth.

The SDLP promised they would make a change when they joined the Policing Board.

But plastic bullets now cast a shadow over them. They are part of a Policing Board which purchased 100,000 plastic bullets in 2002-03. It doesn’t stop there. Denis Bradley, vice chair of the Policing Board, told an international law conference that people who demanded plastic bullets be banned were living in “cloud cuckoo land.”

A land without plastic bullets was promised to us.

You used to live there Denis. So did the SDLP.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News