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Oppose Britain’s State of Repression

06/08/09

Annual plastic bullet vigil in BelfastIn the early hours of August 9 1971, 400 Irish citizens were woken to the sound of armoured jeeps, smashing glass and hysterically abusive British soldiers invading the privacy of their homes.

Internment, the system of legalised injustice habitually used by Britain and its Irish allies to keep the status quo secure, was on.

What followed in Palace Barracks and other holding centres across the North was later lambasted by the European Court of Human Rights. Violence and the threat of violence was the order of the day for the majority of vulnerable internees, while a select few were selected for a more systematic form of torture involving being dropped from helicopters, white noise and sleep deprivation. On the streets, the British army went on the rampage, murdering and maiming civilians at will, most notoriously in the Ballymurphy Massacre in the Upper Springfield area of Belfast.

In March of this year, the British government began using its 28-day detention legislation in the Six Counties. Under the legislation, citizens can be held in interrogation centres for up to 28 days without charge or recourse to a trial. Among those subjected to this treatment so far in the North was a 17-year-old boy.

In Belfast yesterday [Wednesday], 200 people gathered on the Andersonstown Road for the annual vigil for the victims of plastic and rubber bullets. This year sees the 25th anniversary of the murder of John Downes, shot dead at point blank range with a plastic bullet by the RUC during a peaceful demonstration on the same road. In all, 17 people have been killed by plastic and rubber bullets since their introduction in the North in the 1970s.

It is worth recalling their names, and their innocence:

Annual plastic bullet vigil in Belfast

  • Francis Rowntree, aged 11, shot in the head by the British army
  • Tobias Molloy, aged 18, shot in the chest by the British army
  • Thomas Friel, aged 21, shot in the head by the British army
  • Stephen Geddis, aged 10, shot in the head by the British army
  • Brian Stewart, aged 13, shot in the head by the British army
  • Michael Donnelly, aged 21, shot in the head by the British army
  • Paul Whitters, aged 15, shot in the chest by the RUC
  • Julie Livingstone, aged 14, shot in the head by the British army
  • Carole Ann Kelly, aged 12, shot in the head by the British army
  • Henry Duffy, aged 45, shot in the head by the British army
  • Nora McCabe, aged 32, shot in the head by the RUC
  • Peter Doherty, aged 36, shot in the head by the British army
  • Peter McGuinness, aged 36, shot in the chest by the British army
  • Stephen McConomy, aged 11, shot in the head by the British army
  • John Downes, aged 22, shot in the chest by the RUC
  • Keith White, aged 20, shot in the head by the RUC
  • Séamus Duffy, 15, shot in the chest by the RUC

On July 13, the PSNI opened fire on the residents of Ardoyne in north Belfast with plastic bullets, injuring 10 people. The force currently has a stockpile of at least 50,000 rounds of this deadly weapon and, as was witnessed in Ardoyne, they are more than prepared to use them.

The British government remains wedded to repression in its Irish colony. Along with 28-day detention and plastic bullets, the PSNI has been equipped with assault rifles, CS gas and Tasers. MI5 has its largest base outside of London in north Down and is primarily tasked with intelligence gathering on Irish republicans. Non-jury Diplock courts remain in operation. The British army has 5,000 troops garrisoned in the Six Counties with unique powers, while the Special Reconnaissance Regiment is, no doubt, snooping around in a neighbourhood near you.

Internment meetingThe Six Counties is not a democratic or fundamentally altered entity. It remains an occupied territory, to be held by any means necessary by the British government.

This weekend, éirígí will be holding demonstrations in Dublin and Enniskillen and a public meeting in Belfast to expose and oppose Britain’s role in Ireland.

On Saturday [August 8], there will be protests at the British Embassy in Dublin and at Enniskillen PSNI Barracks.

The following day, a public meeting on Belfast’s Falls Road will hear from former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ruhal Ahmed, Duffy family representative Caitriona Duffy, former Long Kesh internee and H-Block escaper Gerry McDonnell and human rights lawyer Pádraigín Drinan, who represented the hooded men.

The use of plastic bullets and 28-day detention are not signs of a normal or healthy society. The policies and tactics used to sustain the Six County are, in fact, deeply abnormal. All those with an interest in human rights should oppose them – get active at the weekend.

 

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