‘Plastic Justice’, an extensive report on the history, legacy and the deadly impact of the plastic bullet in the north of Ireland, was launched by Relatives for Justice last weekend.
The report includes information on the development of the lethal rounds, their medical impact, and their misuse and abuse.
As part of its comprehensive study of the use of plastic bullets in Ireland, the report gives an in-depth personal history of all 17 people who were killed by plastic bullets in the north.
Launched online in a link-up with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, it includes an account of a plastic bullet killing at a 1984 arrest operation aimed at the former publicity director of Irish Northern Aid, Martin Galvin, now an AOH official.
An RUC unit had moved in to stop Mr Galvin from making an appearance at a republican anti-internment rally in west Belfast, when they opened fire with plastic bullets. Sean Downes, an innocent 22-year-old civilian was shot in the chest and killed, in an attack which was captured by TV cameras.
The rally was itself engineered by an MI5 double agent within the Sinn Féin leadership, Denis Donaldson.
British government records relating to the operation to stop Mr Galvin entering the north of Ireland, the killing and their subsequent PR effort have recently been found. Report author Peadar Thompson said he is hoping to reinvigorate the conversation about the banning of plastic bullets and their “enduring legacy of death and serious injury”.
“We want to get people talking about plastic bullets again and get people to remember it again, because at the end of the day these weapons still aren’t banned,” he said.
“There are still 17 families that have still to see any justice.
“It’s about raising awareness that this hasn’t gone away and these families deserve justice. The public deserves to know about these weapons as well.”
He added: “This will be very tough to think about for the victims of plastic bullets, but I hope the report will give them a lift and show that people still care about them, and people still care about the fact that they deserve the truth and they deserve justice.”
Mr Galvin, who witnessed the killing of John Downes, said ‘Plastic Justice’ is a groundbreaking report which highlights the political and legal strategies used by the British to deny truth and justice to victims’ families, such as treating victims as criminals or rioters to justify murders and intimidate witnesses.
“Crucial documents and files are systematically withheld,” he said. “Inquests or legacy investigations which could shed light on these murders are arbitrarily denied.
“Not one British trooper or Royal Ulster Constabulary member was ever found guilty for any of these 17 killings, even where victims were children.”