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17 July 1997 Edition

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Youth demand plastic bullet ban

Over 400 young people attended a protest at Belfast City Hall on Wednesday calling for the immediate banning of plastic bullets. The protest was called by Sinn Fein Youth in response to the alarming number of young nationalist who have been injured in recent weeks.

Among those at the rally was Rosaleen Walsh, whose daughter MaĆ­re was hit in the jaw with a plastic bullet on Sunday 6 July. The mother of Short Strand teenager Chris Doherty, whose jaw was broken by a baton round on the same night, was also there, as was Janet Donnelly, cousin of Gary Lawlor, who spent over a week in a coma after being hit on the head with a plastic bullet in Lenadoon, also on 6 July.

Speaking to the protesters, anti-plastic bullet campaigner Brenda Downes called for an immediate banning of ``lethal plastic bullets which since their introduction have killed, injured and maimed innocent men, women and children''.

Rosaleen Walsh spoke of her disgust at the RUC who ``deliberately went out of their way to harm my 13 year old daughter''. She asked ``how can I teach my children to respect the RUC when the RUC have no respect for my children?''

Janet Donnelly spoke of Gary Lawlor's parents' pain while their son was in hospital. ``For days he lay in a coma fighting for his life; only a child and nearly murdered by the RUC'', she said.

Speaking on behalf of Sinn Fein Youth, Eoin O'Broin called for the ``immediate banning of plastic bullets and the disbandment of the RUC''. He said that ``most of those injured during the past two weeks were not in riot situations and sustained injuries that indicated that the RUC contravened guidelines for the use of `baton rounds'. Is it any wonder that the nationalist community has no confidence in the RUC?''

Gerry Adams in a statement described the so-called new guidelines on the use of plastic bullets published by the British government on Tuesday 15 July as ``not worth the paper they are printed on''. ``The RUC and British Army regularly, and with impunity, breach their own guidelines and have done so for two decades. There is only one answer to the issue of plastic bullets and that is to introduce an immediate ban''.
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