During our conflict seventeen civilians were killed by plastic bullets, nine of them were children. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent compensating the injured of plastic bullets. Some of those injuries include lost limbs, paralysis, brain damage, loss of hearing and blindness.
Plastic bullets have been used as a weapon for political control and civilians have borne the terrible cost of this policy.
Chris Patten recognised these issues. He recommended the introduction of alternative methods to address public order policing. When the new plastic bullet was introduced under the guise of “alternative method” the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern accused the NIO of working against the spirit of Patten.
On 12/01/2007 then Chief Constable Hugh Orde stated that he did not want to see plastic bullets used. He stated that they should never be used in crowd control or public order situations. He acknowledged the deaths and injuries caused by their use, and the innocence of those victims.
This was a principle piece of the jigsaw which saw Sinn Féin sign up to policing.
Since then nearly 400 plastic bullets have been fired. All in public order situations. All in working class areas.
Their use at no time contributed to peaceful resolution. They consistently contributed to heightened militarisation of the situations.
Plastic bullets should never be an option. They do not protect lives. they do not quell riots. They do not provide solutions.
Plastic bullets, take lives, they injure and maim and they make difficult situations far far worse.
No one should be persuaded by the Police Federation’s arguments today. Plastic bullets must be banned and taken out of the PSNI armoury to prevent the threat of their use.