Guarded welcome for plastic bullet announcement
Sinn Fein 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 Fein
will continue to press for an immediate end to these lethal
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.
A new plastic bullet introduced in June 2001 has been found to be
even more dangerous than the previous version, which has killed
a dozen Catholic children and injured scores more.
A report commissioned by the Human Rights Commission and released
on Monday revealed that the new, smaller bullet "travels faster
and hits harder than the one it replaced and that its lack of
accuracy in use makes it potentially more lethal".
Prof Brice Dickson, chief commissioner of the Human
Rights Commission, said the findings were disturbing.
He said: "We are particularly concerned about the potential
danger to children from injury by the baton round, and indeed
some children have already been hurt by it."
Wednesday's announcement is an achievement For Sinn Fein. 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, the party said.
"Sinn Fein 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 Fein 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 Fein welcomes this progress, but we will continue to press
for the total end to the use of these lethal weapons."