A group which campaigns on behalf of victims of state violence in the Six Counties has expressed its “deep concern” at the firing of plastic bullets by the PSNI in north Belfast on Monday [July 13].
Relatives for Justice also urged those hit by plastic bullets on Monday to seek urgent medical attention.
Ten people were injured when the PSNI opened fire with at least 18 plastic bullets during their operation to force an Orange Order march past the nationalist Ardoyne area on Monday afternoon.
Seventeen people have been killed by plastic and rubber bullets since their introduction in the North in the early 1970s by the British army and the RUC.
In late 2001, the PSNI was supplied with an extra 50,000 rounds of the deadly weapon.
The deputy director of Relatives for Justice, Andreé Murphy, said: “It is our understanding that there are a number of injuries sustained, and that there may be a 12-year-old injured.
“We have had sight of one injury which involved a man being hit above waist level in the stomach.
“We understand that those who have received injuries may not have received medical attention. The nature of these types of plastic bullets – particularly in cases of abdominal or chest injuries - means that medical attention is strongly advisable. We urge those with injuries to seek medical attention. This is particularly the case for any young people who have sustained injuries. Deep muscle and organ damage is possible and the extent of any injury may emerge only in the days after the injury was sustained. Don’t be brave and wave it off – get it seen to.
Murphy continued: “Relatives for Justice is opposed to the use of plastic bullets in any situation. We have been repeatedly assured that they are not considered by the PSNI to be a form of riot control – however, yet again, that is exactly the context in which plastic bullets are being used. This is deeply concerning. As long as plastic bullets remain in the armoury of the PSNI they will be used in this context.”
Clara Reilly, the chairperson of Relatives for Justice and one of the founders of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets, added that the human cost of plastic bullet use is devastating.
“Every time a plastic bullet is used a life is put at risk,” Reilly said.
“Should a young person be seriously injured, or worse, lose their life in Ardoyne, or anywhere else, as a result of the use of these weapons, it would cause devastation to that young person’s family which is irreparable. We see the results of that carnage every day in our office and we do not want to see that visited on any more families.
“We strongly urge anybody who may have been injured to contact Relatives for Justice on 90 220100 so that these injuries and the use of plastic bullets is clearly and transparently held to account.”
éirígí general secretary Breandán Mac Cionnaith said the firing of plastic bullets was yet another reason for the nationalist community to reject the PSNI.
“Plastic bullets have, for decades, been one of the most brutal weapons of repression in the armoury of the British state in Ireland. The deaths and horrific injuries caused by these bullets has left a trail of hurt and anguish across the North.
“The use of plastic bullets by the PSNI against the community in Ardoyne is an example of their willingness to use the jackboot to impose Orange feet on nationalist streets.
“Plastic bullets, CS gas, Tasers, automatic weapons, 28-day detention legislation – all these things are being used by the PSNI to uphold the sectarian state and impose British rule in Ireland. Nationalist communities should reject them outright.”
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