Human rights activists have called on members of the North’s Policing Board who oppose the use of plastic bullets to resign.
Scores have been killed or injured by the rounds since they were introduced in 1973. In 1981 alone, seven were killed, including three children.
The policing board last week confirmed an earlier decision to approve the PSNI’s purchase of a new model of plastic bullet, called the Attenuating Energy Projectile (AEP).
The board controversially includes three members of the nationalist SDLP.
In a statement, jointly issued on behalf of Relatives for Justice and the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets, campaigner Clara Reilly said that the board’s decision was taken without proper consultation.
“None of the families bereaved or people injured were consulted by the Policing Board on this vital issue,” Ms Reilly said. “Indeed their views were completely dismissed and ignored.
“Given the appalling legacy of the use of plastic bullets this decision runs in the face of the notion of a new beginning to policing. In this context I would again appeal to those people with genuine commitment to human rights to resign from the board and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the human rights community and our young people in the interests of acceptable and safe policing for all of our futures.”
The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) also expressed disappointment, saying there had been a lack of consultation before the decision.
“The many victims of this weapon have been excluded from the process entirely,” it said.
Paul O’Connor of the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre also said he backed the demand for board members to consider their positions.
Sinn Féin policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly accused the SDLP of ‘acquiescing’ to the introduction of the new plastic bullet.
“When the SDLP jumped early and joined the Policing Board they proclaimed that one of the issues that would be effectively dealt with through board membership was the issue of plastic bullets.
“Today’s decision by the Policing Board exposes this position as seriously flawed,” he said.
The SDLP’s policing spokesperson Alex Attwood refused to resign his position on the board.
Mr Attwood said that while calls for resignations “may make a headline, it will do nothing to get policing right”.