‘Grossly shocking’ discovery on rubber bullets - Foyle MP

British Government knew rubber bullets could be lethal when deployed in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
British Government knew rubber bullets could be lethal when deployed in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said that the ‘grossly shocking’ discovery of confidential papers revealing just how lethal rubber bullets could be confirms a calculated combination of ‘cynicism, malice and negligence’ on the part of the British government.

He said: “These papers confirm that the British government really knew just how unsafe, unreliable, injurious and lethal these weapons could be.

“Their stonewalling against the well-founded complaints and arguments about the nature and use of these bullets extended to deploying monetary compensation not in a spirit of redress and truth and acknowledgement but as a tool of cover-up.

“At one level, the victims of these bullets and their families have felt and suspected something of this order all along. At another level it is grossly shocking to find that cynical malevolence corroborated in government papers.

“It is not only victims and those who campaigned against these weapons who should be incensed by what has been revealed. Ministers, politicians in the North and in Britain, officials and commentators who retailed the false justification for these weapons and rebutted the genuine concerns should also now be incensed if they have any decency.”

Declassified confidential documents from the 1970s reveal that British officials not only knew rubber bullets could be lethal but that the testing of the weapon had taken place “in a shorter time than was ideal.”

The revelations are contained in a series of official papers relating to the compensation case of Derry man, Richard Moore, who was blinded by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier in 1972. Richard was ten-years-old when he lost his sight.

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) later settled the case with the Moore family out of court for £68,000 - a figure mentioned in the papers as a “rock bottom price.”

As revealed by the ‘Derry Journal’ this morning, the documentation was unearthed recently in London’s Public Records Office by Derry-based human rights group, the Pat Finucane Centre.

Correspondence between British officials appears to indicate that the authorities had been in such a hurry to develop ‘riot control weapons’ in the early 1970s that they rushed through the testing of rubber bullets.

The papers also reveal that officials feared Richard Moore’s legal team might seek disclosure of certain background documents detailing the safety of rubber bullets - reports that would reveal the weapon had not been adequately tested.

The city’s MP, Mark Durkan added: “This newly-corroborated truth and Richard Moore’s profoundly sincere, considerate and challenging response to it warrants proper address by the government of today.

“Through his work with Children in Crossfire Richard has many friends in Parliament and I would hope that they would join with me as his constituency MP in making sure that this sordid syndrome of deceit, denial and deadly deployment is duly reflected on the Parliamentary record.”