Use of plastic bullets condemned
Use of plastic bullets condemned

A 13-year-old boy was among a number of people injured by plastic bullets fired by the PSNI during Monday night’s clashes in north Belfast.

Relatives for Justice said the child’s family, who live in the Ardoyne area, did not want to be identified.

The group said two others were injured, including a man who was hurt in the stomach, contrary to guidelines that plastic bullets should not be fired so as to hit people above the waist.

Another man had been injured in the inner thigh by the ammunition, described as “attenuating energy projectile systems” (AEPs) by the British Crown forces.

Andree Murphy, the group’s deputy director, said the effect of AEPs on young people had not been tested by PSNI.

“This 13-year-old is small for his age, and a police officer would have known he was a child,” she said.

The solution was not Tasers or plastic bullets. “Police must work with community representatives to avoid riots,” she added.

Local activists said a total of ten people were struck by the potentially lethal rounds during the disorder.

Prominent Ardoyne republican Mairtin Og Meehan criticised what he said was an “aggressive attitude” by the PSNI which forced residents to abandon a peaceful protest.

“The nationalist and republican community of Ardoyne and surrounding areas have had their human rights trampled on for generations by the British army, RUC, Orange Order and now the PSNI with completely unnecessary annual invasions of adrenaline-charged storm-troopers in order to force sectarian parades through our district,” he said.

“As part of the proposed protest we intended demonstrating our opposition to yet another triumphalist march by sitting and blocking the road for a specified period of time.

“Unfortunately when we arrived at the designated point to begin our protest, scores of baton-wielding PSNI riot team members occupied the area and surrounded residents.

“The aggressive attitude by the PSNI eventually forced us to abandon our planned protest.”

But in an unprecedented attack, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly blamed Ardoyne republicans for the violence.

Kelly, once seen as a hardliner, accused “dissidents” of manipulating children into participating in the riots to suit their own political agenda.

He denied that the events of Monday evening were equivalent to previous years -- when protests organised by Sinn Fein were attacked by the PSNI -- and insisted the clashes involved people from outside the Ardoyne area.

He also said it was a miracle that one of the rioters didn’t get killed.

Mr Meehan said the people of Ardoyne suffered from high unemployment, major deprivation and a dearth of proper facilities, and recalled the ninety-nine Ardoyne residents killed during the recent conflict and the “unforgettable” Holy Cross blockade.

“The aggressive presence of PSNI riot squads intent on facilitating sectarian parades inevitably caused a violent reaction from those same young people.

“Whilst I respect Gerry Kelly’s electoral mandate, he needs to acknowledge that the majority of people in Ardoyne are angry that he or his party have not condemned the injuring of 10 people by plastic bullets, the hostile use of water cannons and antagonistic actions by the PSNI.

“North Belfast Sinn Fein must also stop the felon-setting, accusing and naming of Ardoyne republicans to the media and others and accusing people of being behind the riot which followed the planned protest.

“They must work with the majority of local republicans to end marches that foster sectarian division entering our area.”

Mr Kelly condemned dissidents for reported armed actions on Monday evening, including claims that children had been endangered.

“I am once again calling on spokespeople for the various dissident organisations to explain the rationale for leaving a loaded weapon in the middle of Ardoyne, which was found by children, and worse again for firing shots and using pipe bombs in the midst of a riot situation, which is uncontrolled and where you have many children in the vicinity.”

Mr Kelly also said he had been told by the PSNI of a dissident threat to him and warned to ‘watch his back’.

“While I take this threat seriously, be certain that it will not detract me from my political work or from representing the people of north Belfast.”


A dissident republican accused of involvement in an alleged gun attack during an Orange Order parade blamed Sinn Fein’s Bobby Storey for his arrest as he was carried from his north Belfast home early yesterday.

The victim was dragged from his home by six PSNI men, at one stage being dropped on the ground.

He blamed Sinn Fein’s Bobby Storey - the party’s Belfast chairman - and other mainstream republicans in the district for orchestrating his arrest.

The arrested man had once acted as a spokesman for an anti-drugs group in Ardoyne which was publicly critical of Sinn Fein’s cooperation with the PSNI.

As he remained in custody on Thursday night up to 50 supporters, including his wife and young child, held a protest outside Antrim Road Police Station, claiming that mainstream republicans were behind his arrest.

Republican Network for Unity (RNU) spokesman Martin Og Meehan blamed the violence on police and claimed that officers had threatened to shoot a pregnant woman with a Taser gun during searches in Ardoyne yesterday.

“Whilst the RUC/PSNI will undoubtedly continue to behave in such a manner, encouraged by the silence of the elected representatives of the area who care to look the other way and only see and say what their masters up in Stormont tell them to, they need to know that the people of Ardoyne have endured generations of state oppression, it did not break the will of the people to resist then and it will not do it now,” he said.

Another man was also arrested in connection with the same incident, but both have since been released unconditionally. Two youths arrested for public disorder offences remain in PSNI custody.

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