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11 February 1999 Edition

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Ingram says plastic bullets to stay

By Brid O'Hagan

Plastic bullets are to be retained for use in the Six Counties, British security minister Adam Ingram has said. Speaking in the British parliament Ingram's comment was part of an answer he gave when questioned about the use of the lethal weapon and his government's response to calls by the UN Committee Against Torture that the bullets be banned.

Ironically Ingram's defence of plastic bullets came in the same week that the NIO was ordered to pay damages, amounting to £152,500, to four Belfast people who were struck by plastic bullets during disturbances during the Drumcree standoff in 1996. Three of the injured suffered serious facial injuries.

In all four cases the RUC was in the dock and afterwards solicitor Eamon McMenamin accused the RUC of misuse in firing plastic bullets when regulations state that they should not strike anyone above the waist.

Speaking to An Phoblacht Clara Reilly of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets (UCAPB) said she was ``not surprised that the RUC is to continue the use of plastic bullets given that over the years the same RUC and British government have ignored calls from International Human rights groups, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, the European Parliament, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee Against Torture, and many US senators and Congressmen to have these murderous weapons banned.

``In his answer Ingram stated, `plastic baton rounds are used by the police and army... only where life or property is at risk'. But every guarantee given over the years on the rules governing the use of plastic bullets has been broken time and time again. The problem is not only plastic bullets, but plastic bullets in the hands of the sectarian RUC.

``Until the use of lethal force in the form of plastic bullets is ended and the truth about the death and injury caused is told, building peace, democracy, trust, and faith in the rule of law and order will be an impossible task''.
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