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10 April 2003 Edition

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Guarded welcome for plastic bullet announcement

Sinn Féin policing spokesperson, Gerry Kelly, said that a statement on plastic bullets by the British government on Wednesday evening represented a forward move, but that Sinn Féin will continue to press for an immediate end to these lethal weapons.

British Security Minister Jane Kennedy had announced that plastic bullets will be replaced by the end of the year in the Six Counties, if an effective but less lethal alternative can be found. The government claimed that, although a replacement is not guaranteed, moves to find an alternative will be stepped up, if one is not found by the promised date.

Kennedy said it was the government's objective to ensure that not a single baton round would need to be fired.

The announcement is an achievement For Sinn Féin. The SDLP and the Policing Board had settled for the end of 2005 as a target date. This was not acceptable to republicans, who went back and renegotiated, leading to today's statement.

"Sinn Féin have been pressing this British government relentlessly on the issue of plastic bullets, particularly at and since the recent Hillsborough discussions," said Gerry Kelly.

"We have made clear that the ending of the use of plastic bullets is a key issue for Sinn Féin and the nationalist community.

"Plastic bullets have maimed and killed, and many of the victims have been young children. They have been employed by the British forces as a weapon of terror and the rules governing their use have been systematically and institutionally disregarded."

"Sinn Féin welcomes this progress, but we will continue to press for the total end to the use of these lethal weapons."
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