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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 21:24 GMT 22:24 UK
No new baton round training
RUC fired plastic bullets in Belfast riots last week
The proposals will form part of the political package
New recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland will not be trained in the use of plastic bullets for several years, the BBC has learned.

The decision will form part of the package the British and Irish Governments are to put to the Northern Ireland parties to attempt to break the deadlock in the political process.

An RUC spokesman said: "They will receive firearms training but they will not receive baton round training."

However, he said only seasoned officers would be deployed in serious civil disorder.

'Absurd'

"The people who would be trained would be members of the mobile support unit who are front line in riot situations," he said.

Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader, Peter Robinson, said it was "absurd" that new recruits to the service would not be trained in the use of plastic bullets.

Sinn Fein policing spokesman Gerry Kelly said the difficulty was that "if this is true it obviously doesn't mean plastic bullets are not going to be used".

"What they need is an alternative to plastic bullets," he said.

BBC Northern Ireland's chief security correspondent, Brian Rowan, said the package would say a number of things on plastic bullets:

  • It will make clear a determination to find an alternative

  • There will be a new urgency - a speeding up of the research programme

  • The document will say that recruits to the new police service will not be trained in the use of plastic bullets for a number of years

    No alternative

    "In that time it is hoped that another means of dealing with riot situations will have been found," he said.


    But at this stage no alternative has been found and there is no immediate prospect of them being withdrawn

    BBC NI's Brian Rowan

    "The first 260 trainees will enter the police college in October.

    "Usually an officer would complete several years' service before being trained in the use of baton rounds.

    "The Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, has said plastic bullets should be put beyond use, and that he would not recommend that young nationalists join a police service using them.

    "But at this stage no alternative has been found and there is no immediate prospect of them being withdrawn."

    Statement

    Last week, the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, called on Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissioner Brice Dickson to resign over the issue.

    It followed a statement from Mr Dickson that the RUC should ban the use of plastic bullets to control riots.

    New baton round was introduced on 1 July
    New baton round was introduced on 1 July

    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 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.

    Sir Ronnie had 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.

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

    Professor Dickson made the call after the commission again considered the new plastic bullet round made available to the RUC on 1 June.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    BBC NI's chief security correspondent Brian Rowan:
    "The research programme to find an alternative will speed up"
    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'
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