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15 November 2001 Edition

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Two children injured

RUC/PSNI orders 50,000 more plastic bullets




BY MICHAEL PIERSE


The Campaign Against Plastic Bullets and the Pat Finucane Centre have reacted angrily to the revelation that the now defunct Police Authority ordered a £300,000 purchase of a further 50,000 plastic bullets at its final November meeting.

While the former RUC body has now been replaced by the Police Board, set up under British legislation, there are as yet no indications that the purchase will or can be overturned. According to the Pat Finucane Centre, the move represents a commitment to the use of plastic bullets for at least the next decade.

Compounding nationalist anger was an incident in North Belfast at the weekend, in which the RUC/PSNI fired a number of plastic bullets injuring children, including an 10-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl who was hit in the chest.

Clara Reilly, Chairperson of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets said that the purchase was an act of defiance and contempt against those who are committed to promoting and protecting human rights.

"We will be seeking legal advice on the possibility of this move being overturned, given that it contravenes the Patten recommendations into finding a safer and non-lethal alternative to plastic bullets," she said.

"Furthermore, we are now publicly asking the new Police Board - do you have the authority and will to overturn this decision and to refuse payment in respect of this latest consignment of weapons?"

Plastic bullets should not be used anywhere or against any section of our community, she said. "They have no place in our society, especially when respect for human rights and against lethal force is being promoted by all people of goodwill."

The Pat Finucane Centre, a human rights monitoring organisation set up in memory of the assassinated Belfast solicitor, said that a total ban on plastic bullets should be the first item on the agenda of the new Police Board. "This presents a fundamental challenge for those parties and individuals who believe that change can best be brought about working from the inside," it said. "It is now incumbent on those on the Police Board opposed to the use of plastic bullets to use every administrative, legal and political mechanism at their disposal to block this purchase, even at this late stage. There should and can be no business as usual while this lethal weapon remains in the policing armoury."

A Sinn Féin spokesperson drew attention to the fact that it was nationalists who were targeted in North Belfast on Sunday by RUC/PSNI plastic bullets. "It will take more than a new name to convince people in North Belfast," said Margaret McClenaghan. "Their actions last Sunday in targeting children and the ordering of 50,000 new plastic bullets show that the leopard hasn't changed its spots."
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