BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Northern Ireland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

NI Human Rights Commission's Brice Dickson
"We think it is a disproportionate use of force"
 real 28k

RUC chief constable Ronnie Flanagan
"Commission chose to issue its statement without contacting me"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 19:50 GMT 20:50 UK
Commissioner is urged to resign
RUC fired plastic bullets in Belfast riots last week
RUC fired plastic bullets in Belfast riots last week
The Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has called on Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissioner Brice Dickson to resign.

It follows a statement from Mr Dickson that the RUC should ban the use of plastic bullets during riots.

In the House of Commons, the East Antrim MP Roy Beggs called Professor Dickson "a naive do-gooder" and also said he should resign.

The dispute over the use of plastic bullets intensified after the RUC chief constable rejected a statement from the official human rights body.

The nationalist SDLP has accused RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan of making a "hysterical, ill-judged and ill-timed" response to calls for a ban on plastic bullet use during riots.

The SDLP's Alex Attwood said the RUC should accept the commission's report.

On Wednesday, Sir Ronnie rejected a statement from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission which urged him to declare that he would no longer deploy baton rounds for crowd control.

Chief Commissioner Brice Dickson said Sir Ronnie Flanagan should follow the example of his counterparts in England who had resisted the use of plastic bullets during recent disturbances.

Brice Dickson:
Brice Dickson: "RUC chief constable must follow English forces' example"
Professor Dickson made the call after the commission again considered the new plastic bullet round made available to the RUC on 1 June.

He also said the new weapon "appears to be even more dangerous than the weapon it replaced" and called on the government to quickly develop alternatives.

The commission's view is based on a report prepared for the government by the Defence Scientific Advisory Council.

Almost 50 baton rounds were fired by police officers during nationalist riots in Ardoyne last week.

The Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman is currently investigating a claim that a 16-year-old girl was hit on the forehead with a plastic bullet in Ardoyne in north Belfast on 12 July.

Sir Ronnie reacted angrily to Mr Dickson's appeal.

In a BBC interview he said: "I was surprised at the timing of this statement and disappointed at its lack of rigour.

"It's a call for me to follow the lead of colleagues in England and Wales. But I've spoken to those colleagues and they said they have never given such a lead."

Sir Ronnie Flanagan:
Sir Ronnie Flanagan: "RUC needs recourse to plastic bullets"
He added: "We do not use baton rounds for crowd control, nor would we.

"We direct baton rounds at individuals who are identified as behaving in a way that brings about a risk to life.

"I have no doubt that if my officers had not had recourse to plastic baton rounds then someone would have been killed in recent days."

However, the chief commissioner defended his comments.

Mr Dickson said: "We've done our homework on this. I've clarified the position and checked the press releases issued by the police forces in England and I'm confident that what we've said about the non-use of plastic bullets in England is accurate."


Meanwhile, Clara Reilly of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets said the chief constable's comments were "a disgrace".

Clara Reilly of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets
Clara Reilly: "Sir Ronnie's comments are an insult"
She said: "It's an insult to the families of all those people who have been killed and injured.

"Nine of the 17 people who have been killed with plastic bullets have been children, the youngest, just 10-years-old."

She added that while she welcomed the commission's statement, she had hoped it would go further and call for a ban on the baton rounds.

However, Ulster Unionist junior Stormont minister Dermott Nesbitt has supported Sir Ronnie.

New baton round was introduced on 1 July
New baton round was introduced on 1 July
He said: "Where we're dealing with blast bombs, fire-bombs and live rounds being fired, that is not a normal situation.

"Therefore, the chief constable needs the measures at his disposal to deal with that."

Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said the bullets, which he alleged were mainly used against nationalists, should be banned altogether.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

18 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Dispute over plastic bullets use
31 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Derry protest over plastic bullets
22 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Huge response to recruitment drive
08 Sep 99 | Northern Ireland
Sweeping reforms for RUC
16 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Curbs likely on plastic bullet use
01 Aug 99 | Northern Ireland
New plastic bullet rules in force
01 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
NI plastic bullet records 'inadequate'
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Northern Ireland stories