"In The Line of Fire" - a report on events in Derry 10-14 July 1996 following from the "Drumcree Standoff".
PFC | 01 August 1996
This document is not intended to be the definitive report on events in Derry following on from the Drumcree stand off that began on 7 July 1996. It is the result of two weeks intense activity, compiling news articles, interviews and over 100 witness statements. It's purpose is strictly limited, to highlight the abuse and denial of human rights in Derry over the period in question.
Table of Contents
- 2. Introduction
- 3. Cronology of events
- 4. The Use of Plastic Bullets
- 5. Injuries
- 6. Incidents at Altnagelvin Hospital
- 7. The Death of Dermot McShane
- 8. Riot damage
- 9. Intimidation
- 10. Conclusions & Recommendations
FIVE REASONS TO BAN PLASTIC BULLETS
- PLASTIC BULLETS ARE LETHAL WEAPONS CAUSING HORRIFIC INJURY AND DEATH
- THE RULES GOVERNING THE USE OF PLASTIC BULLETS ARE NOT ADHERED TO
- THOSE WHO USE PLASTIC BULLETS GET AWAY WITH MURDER
- PLASTIC BULLETS HAVE BEEN USED AS A SECTARIAN AND INTIMIDATORY WEAPON
- PLASTIC BULLETS HAVE NOT FURTHERED PEACE, THEY HAVE PROLONGED THE CONFLICT
This document is not intended to be the definitive report on events in Derry following on from the Drumcree stand off that began on 7 July 1996. It is the result of two weeks intense activity, compiling news articles, interviews and over 100 witness statements. It's purpose is strictly limited, to highlight the abuse and denial of human rights in Derry over the period in question. The witness statements were taken by staff from the Belfast based Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and members of the Pat Finucane Centre. The presence of the CAJ that weekend in Derry was vital. They will produce their own report covering incidents throughout the North in the near future.
Many people helped in the production of this document and lent their time, energy and creativity. Some did not wish to be named. We express our appreciation to them all. In particular we thank the photographers who gave us access to their work. The Centre as always takes full responsibility for the views expressed here.
In reading the witness statements and conducting the interviews we were moved by the many acts of decency and courage shown by the people of this city: those who opened up their houses for the injured; the staff and ambulance crews at Altnagelvin and Letterkenny hospitals; those who, risking serious injury, rescued others who had been struck by plastic bullets; the people in Newbuildings who stopped the local Catholic chapel being burnt . . . the list goes on.
© Pat Finucane Centre 1996
The Pat Finucane Centre was established in 1989 as an independent resource centre. It is the home of a number of independant education and action projects which exists to promote respect for human rights, dignity and justice within Ireland and internationally, and to encourage creative and imaginative political action around the future of Ireland. The Centre is named after Pat Finucane, a human rights lawyer, who was murdered by the UDA on 12 February 1989.
Many thanks to the Derry Journal, Jarleth Kearney, Crispin Rodwell, Geraldine Emsley and Oisín Mac Bride for the photographsBack to top
This report has been produced to document and highlight human rights abuses committed by British security forces in and around Derry both prior to and after the decision by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to force through an Orange Order parade down the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, Northern Ireland on 11th July 1996. Its main concern is with the way the RUC initiated and responded to civil disturbances in Derry on the nights of 11th, 12th and 13th July. It specifically focuses is on the issue of policing (or the lack of it) in Derry rather than the parade decision itself and the important political repercussions of that decision.
To people outside of Ireland the emotional and political energy invested in the issue of whether a group of bowler hatted, usually elderly men, bedecked in an array of collarettes (sometimes inaccurately referred to as sashes) should be allowed to parade down a particular street is incomprehensible. It seems the ultimate parody of what many observers feel about Northern Ireland and the Northern Irish: irrationality, emotionalism and brutality merged together, devoid of any reasonable content.
In fact, the issue of Orange parades and the routes they take goes to the very heart of the Northern state and its constitutional link to Britain. In no other democratic or western society would it be conceivable that the security forces of the state would force through a march or parade of one ethnic or religious group through that of another, especially one organised by an association whose primary reason for existence is to show hostility to the religious and political beliefs of the resident community. Parallels with marches of the Ku Klux Klan and the National Front in Afro or Jewish communities are not far fetched.
The Northern Ireland state is built around the concept of territory. When Ireland was partitioned in 1921 the border did not follow any principle of geography or ethnicity or politics. It was constructed on the simple principle of the maximum amount of Irish territory which the British state could hold within which a pro-union majority could be reasonably guaranteed. The unifying focal point for many within the pro-union majority in the North of Ireland was the Orange Institution or Order, an organisation which was first established at the end of the eighteenth century and which grew in power and influence over time. By the time that Ireland was partitioned the Orange Institution had become the main political organisation within the Unionist community. Its members formed the largest single block within the Ulster Unionist Council, the ruling body of the Ulster Unionist party, the party which governed Northern Ireland in what was in effect a one-party state until Stormont, the Northern Ireland Parliament, was abolished in 1972. Membership of the Orange Order was an essential prerequisite to political advancement within the Ulster Unionist party and the Government of Northern Ireland. All but three members of the various Ulster Unionist cabinets which governed Northern Ireland from 1921 to 1969 were members of the Orange Order. Many, such as the former Prime Minister Captain Terence O'Neill, belonged to both the Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys' of Derry. Today a majority of Ulster Unionist MPs at Westminster are members of the Orange Institution, including the Rev. Martin Smyth, who as Grand Master of the Orange Institution is its leader. The Rev. Ian Paisley is a not a member of the Orange Order but he is a member of the Apprentice Boys of Derry.
Parades organised by the various `Loyal Institutions', a term used to described collectively the Orange Order, the Royal Black Preceptory and the Apprentice Boys' of Derry, are resonant with political as well as religious meaning. The Loyal Institutions are not only "protestant" in the sense that their members regard themselves in some sense as subscribing to protestant religious beliefs, but more importantly they are virulently anti-catholic. One very recent example of this are the comments made by Robert Saulters, a County Grand Master of the Orange Order as he spoke at the end of the Belfast parade on 12th July. He singled out for attack the Leader of the Opposition and Labour party in Britain, Tony Blair, a member of the Church of England, for both having married a Roman Catholic as well as having recently attended mass and receiving communion. Mr Saulters spoke of the "gutless men in Westminster" and then went on to say that Tony Blair had :
"already sold his birthright by marrying a Romanist and serving communion in a Roman Catholic Church. He would sell his soul to the devil himself. He is not loyal to his religion. He is a turncoat."
(Quoted in the Irish Times, 13 July 1996). Crucially the Loyal Institutions associate the defence of Protestantism, particularly in Ulster, as being intimately connected to the defence of the union with Britain. Of course, as we argued in our report One Day in August, it is wrong to believe that all protestants belong to or support the so-called Loyal Institutions. The overwhelming majority of Irish and Ulster protestants do not belong to any of the Loyal institutions. Many are acutely embarrassed and offended by their claims to speak for Irish protestants and some believe that there will be no re-birth of protestant Christianity in Ireland until such time as its breaks its links with Ulster Unionism as a political ideology.
Orange parades, then, are not primarily religious statements though for some they are. For the majority of marchers it is a political affirmation of Unionism, a point conceded by the Rector of Drumcree, the minister of the Church of Ireland Church where the initial stand-off between Orange paraders and the RUC took place. He described the confrontation and parade as having political origins rather than any religious aspect. (Reported in the Irish News, 29 July 1996). Orange parades, particularly on the 12th July, are primarily political events with speeches given by leading members of the Ulster Unionist party or, in the case of the smaller Independent Orange Order, by Ian Paisley and other prominent members of the Democratic Unionist party. Highly political motions, written by the leadership of the Orange Order, are read out and passed, without discussion. These motions usually reaffirm loyalty to the Queen of England as well as subscribing to the latest Unionist orthodoxy such as opposition to the Anglo-Irish agreement or "Dublin rule". The Apprentice Boys' of Derry, though it no longer has any formal links to the Ulster Unionist party, is nevertheless avowedly unionist in character and sees itself as such. Representatives of the Apprentice Boys have attended planning meetings organised by Ian Paisley aimed at forging a unionist forum in opposition to current British Government policies. All this needs to be assimilated if people from outside Ireland are to understand why non-unionists within Ireland as well as members of the Roman Catholic Church find the Loyal Institutions offensive and sectarian in character. Their desire to march in non-unionist and perceived catholic areas is seen, rightly in our view, as triumphalist.
Parades organised by the various Loyal institutions have never been totally free from controversy. The Apprentice Boys of Derry played a key role in precipitating the street disturbances which are now widely seen as being the start of the present phase of the conflict. In October 1968 the Apprentice Boys of Derry announced its intention to organise a counter-parade in Duke Street, Derry when it was learnt that the Civil Rights Association had organised a civil rights march for Saturday, 5th October. This provided the necessary excuse for the then Minister for Home Affairs, William Craig, to ban both marches. The Civil Rights Association went ahead with their demonstration and the brutality of the RUC response and the street battles which followed in the Bogside were widely reported throughout the world. Ten months later, in August 1969, the Apprentice Boys annual parade in Derry provoked widespread opposition and precipitated the battles between members of the RUC and Derry nationalists in the Battle of the Bogside. After three days of street fighting a temporary peace was restored by the introduction of the British Army to streets of Derry and Belfast. Twenty seven years later the troops are still active in Northern Ireland and played a major role in the response of the security forces during the Drumcree crisis and particularly in Derry.
The recent conflict over the route of Orange parades can be dated to the early 1980's when opposition began to build up to Orange parades passing down the Obin Street and Tunnel areas of Portadown. In 1987, in the face of opposition of the Orange Order, the RUC decided to re-route these parades down the Garvaghy Road, a large nationalist area of Portadown. Opposition to the parades going down the Garvaghy Road continued until 1995 when the first Drumcree stand-off occurred. This occurred when on Sunday 9 July 1995 the Portadown Orange Order refused to be re-routed away from the Garvaghy Road by the RUC when they had finished their service at the now infamous Drumcree Church. There was considerable violence, including the firing of plastic bullets, and disruption throughout Northern Ireland (for example Larne harbour was blocked) associated with this stand-off in Portadown. Eventually an agreement was brokered by the Mediation Network involving the Garvaghy Road Residents Association, the local Orange Lodge and the RUC. Part of the agreement included an assurance given to the Mediation Network by the current Deputy Chief Constable of the RUC Ronnie Flanagan that the Orange Order would never again be allowed to parade down the Garvaghy Road without the consent of the local residents. That assurance was flagrantly breached this year.
The other main centre of opposition to parades by the Loyal institutions has been within the nationalist community based on the Lower Ormeau Road in south Belfast. While there had been some opposition to Orange parades in the area, the campaign by local residents became particularly focused and important when five local residents were brutally murdered in a bookmaker's shop in February 1992 by members of the south Belfast Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the largest loyalist paramilitary organisation. Subsequently a number of members of the Orange Order made five finger gestures at local residents as they passed the bookmaker's shop on an official Orange Institution parade. Since then there has been persistent local opposition to all Orange, Royal Black and Apprentice Boys parades down the Lower Ormeau Road. Many of these parades have now been stopped by the RUC but significantly two key parades, the 12th July parade of Orangemen and the 12th August parade of Apprentice Boys, en route to the main Apprentice Boys parade in Derry, have been forced through by the RUC in the face of solid opposition by residents. In order to achieve this, as was so graphically demonstrated on 12th July this year, the RUC have adopted the tactic of corralling residents into the side streets off the Lower Ormeau Road and imposing a virtual curfew on the residents. They are also prepared to use strong arm and violent tactics, including the use of plastic bullets to clear nationalist demonstrators from the area as they did on the 12th August 1995.
Last year, when it became clear that the RUC would allow the Apprentice Boys of Derry to parade along the west walls in Derry for the first time since 1969, local opposition became vocal and led to demonstrations and protest. Whilst there had been begrudging acceptance of the right of the Apprentice Boys to parade in the city centre, there was widespread support for those who were opposed to the Boys parading on those sections of the walls which overlooked the nationalist Bogside area passing as close as ten yards to one of its streets.
The decision of the RUC to force through the Orange Institution parade in July of this year down the Garvaghy Road has clarified for many people, including a significant number of protestants and unionists, their opposition to Orange and Loyal institution parades in nationalist or mixed areas. The basis of this opposition is due to the assurances which many people believed had been given at the time of the Downing Street Declaration of December 1993. This was expressed in the phrase "parity of esteem", now widely used. Behind the concept of parity of esteem is the belief that the only future for the two communities (or traditions) on the island of Ireland is one in which both nationalists and unionists must feel that the integrity of their communities is assured and that their religious and political beliefs will be valued equally and treated as legitimate. Forcing Orange and similar parades through nationalist areas against the will of local residents is rightly seen as a quite flagrant breach of the principle of parity of esteem and, at a stroke, reaffirmed for nationalists the widespread belief that within the Northern state they are regarded as second-class citizens, not only by the Unionist and Orange leaderships, but, more importantly, by the British Government itself.
The decision by the RUC, with the clear and unambiguous support of the British Government, to force through the Orange parade down the Garvaghy Road has also brought to the fore a number of the other important issues, addressed in part by this report, concerning policing and the development of a society which values and affirms a culture of human rights - rights which are guaranteed to all the citizens of the jurisdiction and all its communities.
The three residents groups which have been leading the campaign against Orange parades have consistently argued that at the heart of the conflict over parades is a principle which should apply to all marches and parades, and that is the principle of consent. If institutions like the Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys wish to parade in certain areas, and in particular residential areas like Garvaghy Road and the Lower Ormeau, then they must first win the consent of local residents. Currently that consent is not there and so they should not be allowed to parade in those areas until such time as it is. Whilst valuing the right of all to demonstrate peacefully, the Pat Finucane Centre believes that the principle of consent is the only acceptable principle by which to decide on the issue of contentious parades. Currently the Loyal institutions rely on the RUC, a police force with historic links to Unionism and to Orangeism, to force through their parades. (A staggering high 92% of serving RUC officers are protestant. A number of the few serving catholics within the RUC are former british soldiers and originated from Britain itself.) This is no longer an acceptable basis for deciding whether parades can or cannot take place. If a meaningful peace is to built in the North of Ireland it can only be built on the principle of consent applied to all.
A major conclusion of the report is the unacceptability of the RUC as a police force which can win the confidence and support of both communities. In the aftermath of the decision to force through the Orange parade the Secretary of State on several occasions on local radio claimed that had the Chief Constable not done so the RUC would have been overwhelmed and nationalist lives would have been lost. This is an extraordinary statement and calls into question the continued position of Patrick Mayhew as Secretary of State. It is a clear and unambiguous statement by their chief minister that the British Government cannot or will not guarantee the safety of nationalists (or for that matter law abiding unionists) within Northern Ireland. This defence of the decision of the Chief Constable goes much further than whether or not the RUC are, or can be, an impartial police service. It is a statement of admission that in the final analysis the British state is either unwilling or unable to defend a significant section of its citizenry.
Our report goes further and demonstrates very clearly that the RUC is a sectarian police force which should not have the support of any section of the community in Ireland or Britain. Our report shows that once the decision had been made by the Chief Constable to force through parades in both the Garvaghy Road and the Lower Ormeau Road, the officers of the RUC unleashed on the nationalist community an appalling and vicious level of violence which should be unacceptable in any civilised society. Our report, which has a limited focus on the way Derry was `policed' both before and after Drumcree, demonstrates the level of violence committed by the RUC, especially and particularly on the nationalist community was sustained and immense. Plastic bullets, which are lethal weapons, were fired indiscriminately and in ways calculated to kill and maim young people. Our report also shows that the RUC frequently broke their own guidelines with regard to the firing of plastic bullets, including using them in situations where lives were not at risk, firing at targets above the waist and at head height, and firing at people who were going about their lawful business.
Our report also shows that the RUC, far from containing unrest, actually initiated the series of events which led to three nights of rioting in Derry and which caused some serious damage to the city centre. Furthermore the unnecessary death and murder of Dermot McShane, crushed by a British Army saxon, also had the effect of heightening tension and provoking street fighting. Our report also shows that it was community leaders and particularly Sinn Féin political activists who actually helped contain the situation and eventually to end the rioting. Our report also shops that claims by the RUC concerning the extent of rioting in the city ("the worst rioting that Londonderry has ever seen") were obvious false and were given in a cynical and self-serving manner in an attempt to justify the enormous amount of plastic bullets which the British Army and the RUC had fired at civilians.
There is one further important point that needs to be made about the RUC and its role as a police force. For policing to be effective in any society, the police service requires the active co-operation and support of the overwhelming majority of the people it serves. Time and time again, as we gathered statements from eye-witnesses to the events described in the report, including those concerning the death of Dermot McShane, we found that the witnesses were not prepared to give their statements to the RUC. This was because they do not have any confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of the RUC. It cannot be a satisfactory state of affairs when a small group like the Pat Finucane Centre can collect more information about the suspicious death of a citizen than the official police force charged with the enforcement of law.
At the heart of establishing a new political dispensation in Ireland which both recognises diversity but values parity of esteem must be the decision to replace the RUC with a police service that is prepared without qualification to serve all the people and who will enforce the law without fear or favour yet in a manner which accepts the primacy of human rights and the need for all institutions of the state to be genuinely and properly accountable. Reports like this one can only have long-term value if they lead to change both in terms of policing and in society as a whole. The tragedy of the report that we have written is that much of it could have been written over twenty-five years ago. The people of Derry deserve a lot better from the agencies of the state than they have had in the past. The time is now ready for our political leaders to put the decommissioning of the RUC and the British Army at the very heart of the peace process with their replacement by a new, acceptable police service.Back to top
3. Cronology of eventsBack to top
Sunday 7 July
RUC ban Orange Order from marching down the Garvaghy Road. Stand off begins 12.30 pm. Road blocks spring up across the North.
Disturbances in Fountain Estate (Derry). Gangs of youths come into confrontation with RUC. Catholic residents in Hawkin Street, which leads into the largely Protestant Fountain estate, are stoned while parking their car on the street and later had their downstairs windows broken.Back to top
Monday 8 July
Officers/Members of Londonderry Grand Orange Lodge (including the Mayor Richard Dallas) hand letter of protest to RUC at Strand Road H.Q. and post proposed contentious routes for 12 July parades. Orange Order calls off planned attendance at their main 12 July parade in Coleraine vowing instead to hold a parade in Derry if the Drumcree march is not allowed through the Garvaghy Road. Home of catholic family living on edge of Protestant Fountain estate attacked. Two `mixed' families forced to flee Fountain estate. Roads blocked in Nelson Drive, Drumahoe and New Buildings. Tullyally - stones and petrol bombs thrown, vehicles set on fire. RUC fire plastic bullets.
RUC fires plastic bullets in Drumcree, further road blocks (including Belfast International Airport and Larne Harbour). Trouble at Orange march in Bellaghy.
Disturbances in Belfast Ballymena Armagh and Newry resulting in extensive blockage of roads and damage to property.
Michael McGoldrick (Taxi driver) murdered outside Lurgan.Back to top
Tuesday 9 July
Fleeing families return to Fountain under RUC protection to collect belongings. Derry's Craigavon and Foyle bridges blocked by members of the Orange Order and supporters (including the Mayor Richard Dallas). Crowd gathers in Newbuildings, roads blocked. RUC fires 2 plastic bullets other roads blocked at Nelson Drive/Seymour Gardens. Tullyally - 10 petrol bombs thrown, no injuries or arrests reported. Catholic Milkman threatened/chased by mob in Rossdowney Rd.
Numbers of Orangemen at Drumcree grow to 7000 - Small number of plastic bullets fired. Widespread disturbances in Belfast, resulting in considerable damage to property. Shots fired in Oldpark area of North Belfast.Back to top
Wednesday 10 July
Derry Strabane Road blocked again (Newbuildings). Bridges across Foyle blocked for a second night. Derry Central Post Office closed early due to `civil unrest'. Bogside Residents Group (BRG) vow to resist Orange marches through Nationalist areas of Derry on Friday.
In Belfast pubs, clubs and restaurants close, city centre deserted, Catholics abandon homes in fear. Train/bus services suspended in many areas of the North. Church leaders talk through the night in attempts to work out compromise between Orange Order and Garvaghy residents. Markethill completely sealed off by Loyalists, Seamus Mallon MP of the SDLP is air lifted out by the British Army to attend Parliament.Back to top
Thursday 11 July
Funeral takes place of Michael McGoldrick, murdered Lurgan taxi driver. Church leaders reconvene in further attempt to work on compromise. Belfast Newsletter reports "Drumcree deal after late night talks", "marchers ready to hit road today". 11 am - Drumcree stand-off ends, march forced through Garvaghy Road as residents engaging in peaceful protest are forcibly removed from area and imprisoned behind RUC cordon. RUC fire plastic bullets on Garvaghy Road. 1,300 Orangemen march through into centre of Portadown. Church leaders dismayed at decision which was made whilst they were still engaged in attempts to reach an agreement.
Over 5,000 Derry Nationalists march on Strand Road. RUC barracks (organised by BRG) in support of residents of Garvaghy Road.
RUC in riot gear await people leaving discos and bars on Shipquay Street, Magazine Street, Waterloo Street. Baton charges and indiscriminate firing of plastic bullets precede throwing of stones, bottles, petrol bombs and hijacking of vehicles. Eye witnesses claim RUC provocation and ambush. British Army return to streets. Trouble continued throughout the night. Countless plastic bullet injuries sustained, many serious, a number of victims admitted to intensive care with two later transferred to Belfast in critical condition. Local homes become first aid stations in response to high numbers of injuries. In the Bishop Street area residents reported RUC failing to challenge stone throwing and petrol bombing directed towards their area from within the Fountain Estate. RUC were reported firing plastic bullets from Bennet Street and then moving into the Fountain where they fired standing side by side with loyalists. Over 20 Plastic bullets fired, all directed towards nationalist streets close to the Fountain.
Injured and relatives attending Altnagelvin hospital accident and emergency department are subjected to harassment and intimidation by large RUC presence outside and inside casualty. RUC in riot gear baton charge those waiting in the department, one man left unconscious. RUC with police dog stand at reception and during disruption set dog on individual. Back in the city centre ambulance staff and witnesses to trouble in casualty advise plastic bullets victims not to go to Altnagelvin. Injured travel to hospital in Letterkenny (over 20 miles away in County Donegal), others treated in local homes, many go without treatment.
RUC claim "more than 900 petrol bombs thrown" . Derry Divisional Commander, Superintendent Joseph McKeever alleged "It was the worst night of violence ever in the city" . Eyewitnesses to Thursday night's events claimed that there would never have been a riot if it had not been for the actions of the RUC. As many as 800 plastic bullet's fired.
19 year old knocked down by landrover in Armagh. Confrontations in North Belfast (Oldpark/New Lodge). Three police officers shot. Further disturbances in Armagh, Lurgan, Coalisland, Newry, Portadown and Strabane. People in Lower Ormeau placed under house arrest from 6 pm.
John Bruton blames the British government for week of mayhem.Back to top
Friday 12 July
March forced through Lower Ormeau. RUC cordons removed and then re-established to facilitate the return of the marchers later that evening.
Second march in support of Garvaghy/Lower Ormeau residents held in Derry. In scenes of nationalist unity unparalleled for many years, Mark Durkan of the SDLP spoke from the same platform as Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness. Approximately three thousand people attended the rally organised by the Bogside Residents Group.
Trouble erupts again in Derry. In the most serious of numerous incidents, 35 year old Dermot McShane died after being run over by a two ton army Saxon vehicle in Little James Street. Eyewitness accounts have stated that the army vehicle drove at high speed at a hoarding held by a number of men including Mr. McShane, causing Mr. McShane to fall under the hoarding. Evidence also emerged of widespread violence on the part of the RUC. There were accounts of the RUC and British Army firing up to 2000 plastic bullets. These bullets were fired indiscriminately, many at people not engaged in disturbances, and they injured well in excess of 100 people, several seriously.
"Peace process in absolute ruins" Gerry Adams
Trouble in Enniskillen, Strabane, Pomeroy, Newtownbutler, Keady, Dungiven, Newry, Coalisland and Belfast
Tyrone Independent Councillor and Police Authority member Francis Rocks calls for the disbandment of the RUC.Back to top
Saturday 13 July
Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ) in conjunction with the Pat Finucane Centre set up a base in the city for collecting statements from witnesses to the events of the previous two nights. Both groups to act as observers to events of the next few days. Labour party Oireachtas members Senator Sean Maloney and Declan Bree TD arrive in Derry as observers at the request of the two groups.
On Saturday evening approximately 10,000 people participated in a silent and peaceful march protesting the death of Dermot McShane. Despite the fact that British soldiers in armoured vehicles had positioned themselves opposite Strand Road RUC demonstrators did not respond to provocation. Addressing a rally following the march, Martin McGuinness made an impassioned plea for an end to the rioting, he asked young people not to allow themselves to become targets for the RUC and the British Army. Pubs and Off Licences close early, 6 pm, as a sign of respect to Dermot McShane. Large number of RUC/British Army vehicles gather on Derry quay. Around midnight approximately 150 young people came into conflict with British Army/RUC in Rossville, William and Little James Street areas. Three hijacked vehicles were destroyed and used to construct barricades. Flames from burning van spread to Mullan's bar and destroy three commercial premises. Approximately 600 plastic bullets were counted being fired by the RUC and British Army. Many of the plastic bullets fired at upper body level, some at very short range.
17 injured in Killyhevlin Hotel (Enniskillen) bombing. IRA denies responsibility for bomb. Further disturbances in Strabane. SDLP announce pulling out of Forum.Back to top
Sunday 14 July
Marches from across city converge on Guildhall Square.
"in one of the biggest marches seen in the city in many years between 15 and 20 thousand people from all walks of life marched to register their protest" (Derry Journal 16/7)
Representatives from Garvaghy/Lower Ormeau attended and spoke as did Mary Nelis (SF) and Bríd Rodgers (SDLP)
Similar rally held in West BelfastBack to top
Monday 14 July
Thousands attend the funeral of Dermot McShane.Back to top
4. The Use of Plastic Bullets
(Plastic bullets....) "are used in accordance with the principle of the minimum and reasonable amount of force necessary for the protection of life and property, the preservation of the peace and the prevention of crime." Superintendent Keatley for the Chief Constable 11.7.1996 "Soon the air was filled with the fumes of burning petrol and the machine-gun like sound of plastic bullet guns being fired almost incessantly." Londonderry Sentinel 17 July 1996
On the Friday before the Drumcree stand-off began six civil liberties/human rights groups faxed the Chief Constable calling on him to:
"immediately and permanently withdraw plastic bullets from use."
The six groups, the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets, Committee on the Administration of Justice, British Irish Rights Watch, Liberty, Pat Finucane Centre and the Irish Council on Civil Liberties argued that:
"their use is wrong and indeed counter productive whether against residents of the Lower Ormeau Road and the Bogside or against Orange Order marchers in Portadown or on the Upper Ormeau Road."
The reply is quoted at the top of this page.
Within 24 hours of the Drumcree situation developing, the RUC opened fire with a small number of plastic bullets against loyalist demonstrators in Tullyally where two vehicles had been set on fire. David Nicholl, a local Ulster Democratic Party representative claimed that :
"the police fired a baton round (plastic bullet) before a stone was fired, and they clubbed a man out looking for his son."
One round went through the window of a house narrowly missing a five year old girl inside according to local people. Rioting continued. On the Tuesday night two plastic bullets were fired at protesting loyalists in Newbuildings. Meanwhile a young man with severe learning difficulties was "seriously injured" by a plastic bullet in Drumcree. The RUC was later to admit that
"662 plastic bullets were fired in Drumcree related (loyalist) disturbances throughout the North."
Human rights groups have consistently made clear that the use of plastic bullets is wrong in any circumstances and only serves to heighten tension. What was to follow over the next days however sent a shock wave throughout the North.
It should first be put in context:
From Sunday 7 July until Thursday 11 July the North of Ireland was subjected to widespread violence and intimidation. The port, international airport, many towns and villages and most key roads were blockaded. Public transport was suspended. Properties both private and commercial were petrol bombed and many families were driven from their homes. Thousands of Orangemen were allowed to congregate at Drumcree and, despite a massive RUC/British Army presence, earth moving machinery was brought onto the scene with which to breach security force lines. During these four and a half days 662 plastic bullets were fired.
Following the RUC decision to force the Orange parade through the largely Catholic Garvaghy Road, confrontation was inevitable with young nationalists. On the Thursday night rioting spread throughout the North.
Property was again attacked and petrol bombed. Vehicles were hijacked and burnt as barricades. The disturbances were almost exclusively restricted to working class nationalist areas. During this period, from 11 July until 6 am on Sunday 14 July the RUC fired 5,340 plastic bullets.
In Derry the first confrontations between young people and the RUC were centred around three particular incidents.Back to top
Fountain / Bishop Street area.
At around midnight on the twelfth two opposing groups of young people were exchanging insults and then bottles and stones in a sectarian clash in the Fountain/ Bishop Street area. The Fountain, a small Protestant enclave, is separated from Bishop Street Without by a security wall/fence. The homes on both sides of this sectarian interface have grills permanently over their windows to prevent stone throwing. As the situation developed petrol bombs were thrown into the Fountain hitting gable walls and from the Fountain at the opposing faction. A local community leader in the Fountain told us that when he arrived on the scene a resident called to him". . . call the police, we're being petrol bombed." The community leader stated that he did not see petrol bombs being thrown out of the Fountain but several residents of Bishop Street have confirmed that they were.
This then was the scene when the RUC moved in at first from Bennet Street on the Bishop Street side and then moving up the middle of Bishop Street and taking up position behind the security fence inside the Fountain. As they did so they fired volleys of plastic bullets at those on the Bishop Street side including at people emerging from nearby pubs. Witnesses have stated that a small group of "very young lads" were involved in the stoning of the RUC at this time.
Sometime shortly after 12.30 am 21 year old Patrick Friel left a local pub on Bishop Street with a friend. They had chosen to avoid the city centre earlier in the evening. His friend continues,
"We just wanted to get home. We were in Long Tower Court when Patrick was hit. He fell. I lifted him and his head was lying open. There was a lot of blood".
Patrick was subsequently driven in a private car to Altnagelvin. He was later transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after his condition became critical. Patrick is now convalescing at home. The plastic bullet that was fired at his head was shot from just over 30 metres by an RUC man standing at the corner of Bennet Street. He remains on duty.
Several other people were injured in this incident though none as serious as Patrick Friel. Twenty three years ago, on 22 May 1973, Patrick's uncle Thomas Friel, also 21 years of age, was killed by a rubber bullet only several hundred yards away.Back to top
Magazine Street/ Waterloo Street and Shipquay Street
Shortly after midnight trouble began between young people and the RUC, first in the Magazine Street/ Waterloo Street area and then spreading to the Shipquay Street area. Why senior RUC officers in the city chose to send landrovers cruising through crowds of young people at a time of such tension is a question that will probably never be answered. It should be borne in mind that the RUC avoid Derry city centre on weekend nights precisely because they are aware of the potential for trouble.
On the night of the 11 July the first confrontations in the city centre occurred because the RUC drove through groups of young people emerging from pubs. No property had been attacked. No petrol bombs had been thrown. One taxi driver told us that he had asked to be let through a cordon of RUC jeeps at the top of Shipquay Street in order to pick up a fare at approximately 1 am. He continues,
"I asked why they were blocking the road if there was no trouble. The officer replied `there will be in about ten minutes time' and laughed."
The night-clubs had not emptied by this time. They were soon to do so into a street cordoned off at the top for no apparent reason.
As people came out onto the bottom of Shipquay Street a landrover drove past. Stones were thrown at it and within minutes a riot squad was advancing down Shipquay Street. Young people coming out of Henry Js, a disco on Castle Street found themselves corralled in Castle Street with RUC blocking both ends of the street. There a similar situation had developed with RUC vehicles passing through just as people emerged from clubs and pubs. Soon riot clad RUC men were on top of Castle Gate on the city walls firing down plastic bullets at crowds on Waterloo Street. Trouble spread to the top of Waterloo Street where RUC men again took up position on top of the walls and fired down at a crowd throwing bottles and stones. This went on for some time before the first petrol bombs were thrown. One witness overlooking Castle Gate counted 45 plastic bullets being fired between 1 am and 1.45. Several petrol bombs had been thrown by this stage. Further up in Fahan Street a resident witnessed at least 36 people being hit by plastic bullets in that immediate area.
Some of the most serious incidents occurred at the bottom of Shipquay Street.
As mentioned above, following the ominous comments made to a taxi driver, a landrover was driven through a crowd emerging from discos and pubs at the bottom of the street. Stones were thrown and riot clad RUC men soon appeared at the top of Shipquay Street and moved down the street. Countless witnesses including barmen and bouncers and the parents of one young plastic bullet victim spoke of
"RUC men hitting people with batons, saw people bleeding, saw young man outside Wheelers (fast food outlet) falling after a flash."
(The flash refers to plastic bullets being fired.) One witness said that as the
"RUC passed young fella lying on ground, they kicked him. Saw young man (approx. 17 years old) coughing up blood, he collapsed on ground."
Many witnesses speak of a `turkey shoot' across the bottom of Shipquay Street with patrons who had been told to leave Squires night-club by the back door being forced to run a gauntlet of plastic bullet fire aimed at anyone who tried to cross the street. The vast majority had no choice since this was their only way home. This led to an extremely high level of injuries with injured people trapped and treated in local clubs and fast food outlets.
It was during this "freefire episode" that 17 year old Kevin Mc Cafferty was struck by plastic bullets at the corner of Shipquay Street and Union Hall Place. Kevin was first hit in the body but as he fell was again struck in the head. He was carried along Union Hall Place to the entrance of the Tower Museum.
A witness continues,
"I saw a fella lying in Union Hall Place, in front of Museum surrounded by crowds who had hands up in air urging RUC to hold their fire, they kept on firing. The man was unconscious and appeared to be hit in face. Some girl was getting hit in the ribs, standing at gate of Tower Museum, lifted into air, fired from corner of Shipquay Street."Another witness told us how,
"One girl who had first aid tried to bring him round. Panic. Crowd tried to lift him. Friend and I went round corner into Shipquay Street, both had hands in the air, telling them not to fire. Heard one more shot, bent down so I wouldn't be hit. RUC man with moustache, stout man, shouted `Fuck off'."
Another witness spoke of a man lying on the ground who had been hit by a plastic bullet. As some of the members of the public sought to help the injured man and drag him to safety, the RUC officers fired plastic bullets at the people trying to help the injured man.
Kevin was eventually taken to hospital and later transferred to the Royal Victoria in Belfast where his condition was described as "critically ill but stable." He is now recovering but doubts remain over whether the eyesight in his left eye can be saved.
Having fired at the people giving first aid to Kevin McCafferty the RUC continued to let loose volley after volley of plastic bullets until the crowd had been driven back to the entrance of William Street where witnesses spoke of "people dropping like flies." The British Army were now on the streets. According to Superintendent Joseph Mc Keever of the RUC,
"We were subjected to a vicious onslaught and sustained volleys of petrol bombs and missiles. This is the worst rioting ever seen in the city. I believe the initial attack on police near the city centre was a carefully orchestrated ploy that was designed to lure police officers into a death trap".
Superintendent Mc Keever recently took over as the most senior RUC officer in the city. He is probably aware of Goebbels maxim that the bigger the lie the more likely it is to be believed. There was "a carefully orchestrated ploy" but it was clearly intended to lure young people into a shooting gallery for Divisional Mobile Support Units who sat waiting in the Diamond. Superintendent Mc Keever spoke of 900 petrol bombs thrown that night and, in a quote quickly taken up by the media, referred to "the worst night of rioting ever seen in this city." The problem was that when the media descended on Derry the next day there was little evidence of the 900 petrol bombs either in damage to buildings or to RUC men.(see below) Only one single statistic pointed to the actual events that had unfolded. Two young men were critically injured, Patrick Friel and Kevin Mc Cafferty, and over one hundred others had been treated in Altnagelvin and Letterkenny Hospitals and in various houses in the Bogside. (See below)
The pattern was to repeat itself throughout the weekend.
On the Friday night a witness told us how an RUC officer on the Strand had :
"called his sergeants together and. ...shouted for `plastic bullet gunners' to load up... Another said `anything that moves, hit it'".
A number of people from a pub on the Strand Road tried to escape the rioting by exiting out a side door and immediately walked into a hail of plastic bullets. Others returning from a concert in Buncrana were hit within minutes of getting off the bus.
How many plastic bullets were fired in Derry from the Thursday night until Sunday morning? The Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre issued a statement on Sunday 14 July in which we said that :
"Over the past three nights several thousand plastic bullets were fired by the RUC and the Army in Derry alone."
The statement continued:
"the RUC and army guns were overheating and jamming because of overuse. Many of the plastic bullets were fired at upper body level, some at point blank range. Last night the shooting was continuous and sustained from 1am until around 5am."
In an interview with the Sunday Tribune (28 July) the RUC admitted that :
"up to 2500 plastic bullets were fired in Derry" [during the three nights].
They admitted this was an "estimate". The spokesman went on to claim that "up to 5000 petrol bombs were thrown at police." The Pat Finucane Centre has disputed both sets of figures.(Derry Journal 23 July) Having read over 100 witness statements we now feel that the dispute is an irrelevancy. The only relevant statistic concerns injuries to human beings. According to the RUC 18 officers were injured over the weekend, some with facial injuries others with burns. Seven remained off duty as of 22 July. A conservative estimate of civilian injuries shows that over 330 people were injured over the weekend, many of them seriously. One man, Dermot Mc Shane, lost his life.
Text of a Radio Foyle interview with a doctor at Altnagelvin following the weekend.
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"They (plastic bullets) are meant to be ricocheted off the ground and then they temporarily disable the people. However in riot situations it has been seen that those situations don't exist and plastic bullets usually strike the body directly. When they do quite severe damage to the soft tissues result. They break bones, especially limb bones and if they strike the head they cause very serious head injuries, like injuries which fracture the skull bones, they fracture sinuses and also cause severe damage such as soft tissue in the eyeball......At close range a plastic bullet can be a dangerous weapon and can cause severe injury and can even cause fatal injury."
The use of plastic bullets over the three nights, and to a lesser extent, the baton charges of the Thursday night resulted in injuries to at least 332 people . This is a conservative estimate as it is impossible to ascertain how many people went home without receiving medical assistance.
According to Altnagelvin Area Hospital there was an abnormally large number of admissions during the period 12-17 July. Seventy seven of the 572 admissions claimed to have injuries arising out of civil disturbances. However, there was an unusually high number of people with circular injuries purporting to have fallen off bikes, scaffolding etc
Thirty two people were treated at Letterkenny Hospital in County Donegal during the three days.
People were dissuaded from seeking treatment at the Accident and Emergency department in Altnagelvin after the RUC's use of violence there on Thursday night. The residents at the first aid houses spontaneously set up in the Rossville Street area over the three nights of rioting have all stated that they were expressly urged by some members of the ambulance crew not to seek treatment at Altnagelvin. One woman states that she was told by one of the crew,
"Whatever you do, don't let them go near casualty if they're not seriously hurt".
Reports from the first aid houses reveal that the type of injuries treated on the Thursday night were mainly in the leg, back and rib areas. It should be borne in mind that those injured in the Shipquay St incident did not pass through the houses where first aid was offered in the Bogside area. The number of head injuries treated in the `first-aid' house nearest the William Street and Rossville Street area increased dramatically on the Friday night. There were two people treated for head injuries on Thursday night, while Friday's numbers showed that there were 15 head injuries. This figure rose sharply again on the Saturday night, with a further increase of 25 head injuries.
"Saturday night was a nightmare for head injuries",
states the resident of one of the `first-aid' houses,
"It was mostly head and neck injuries. There weren't as many people injured on the Saturday night, as the previous two nights, but any who were hurt were far more serious".
Of those that stick out in her mind was a man who had been hit in the face:
"his top lip was hanging off, he'd a broken jaw and broken teeth. I'll never forget him. I took him into the bedroom and I'll never forget the look on his face when he caught a look at himself in the mirror. I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. It was a nightmare, the whole thing".
Throughout the weekend, injuries included fractured skulls, broken jaws, broken arms and legs, a partially-severed ear, broken noses, broken teeth and palates, shattered kneecaps and elbows and an injury where a victim's tongue had to be sewn together. All these injuries were the result of plastic bullets.
Of the first aid houses visited there were 239 people treated for injuries.
A total of 16 people passed through the health centre in Great James' Street on the Thursday and Friday nights.
It is impossible to know the true extent of injuries inflicted by plastic bullets in Derry in the aftermath of the Drumcree stand-off. The figure of 332 is a conservative estimate based on hospital figures, interviews with those who helped in first aid houses and interviews with witnesses. According to witness statements many received no treatment at all.Back to top
The RUC have stated that a total of 18 officers were injured during the three days. Some received facial wounds while others had burn injuries presumably from petrol bombs. One officer was said to have had his face slashed while giving first aid to Dermot McShane. It has not been possible to confirm the RUC version of this incident. It is true that the RUC gave more publicity to this alleged attack than the actual murder of Dermot McShane.Back to top
6. Incidents at Altnagelvin Hospital
Perhaps the most disturbing incidents took place in and around Altnagelvin Hospital. As people injured by plastic bullets and batons arrived for treatment at the hospital in the early hours of Friday 12 August they were confronted with a number of RUC officers.
"Witnesses claimed that police in riot gear with dogs lined up in the entrance bay to the [casualty] unit and made snide remarks to relatives as they arrived at the hospital" --Irish News, 13 July 1996.
One witness, who saw the RUC arrive, observed that at around 1.15 am there appeared to be only one officer at the hospital. The RUC officers appear to have arrived at the hospital at around 1.30am, in a number of jeeps and cars. Most witnesses place the number of RUC officers present in the hospital and its environs at around 20. There were also some police women amongst them. Other witnesses say there were British Army soldiers also present. Some officers were clad in riot gear, others in every-day RUC uniform. At least one officer had an Alsatian dog with him. This officer and others were standing at the entrance to the casualty department. Numerous witnesses report that RUC personnel were in the car-park, as was an armoured police car. One witness observed an RUC officer standing in the car-park, writing in a notebook. "I assume he was noting car number plates", this witness says.
Witnesses describe the atmosphere at the hospital as they arrived as very tense.
"There were RUC lined up outside Casualty on all sides and there were RUC in the car-park. It was very intimidating, very scary. The RUC made snide remarks and laughed at people going in. Some officers laughed and said `Two-One'", said one witness arriving at hospital to visit an injured relative.
Another witness, arriving with injured friend reports that :
"The police were smirking and laughing. One police woman said `We're enjoying every minute of this'".
There were also a number of RUC officers inside the hospital, some of them hanging around the casualty reception area. There appeared to be one or two RUC officers receiving treatment at the hospital and a much larger number of officers actually standing around inside the building. Some of the RUC personnel inside the casualty department were in riot gear, some in flak jackets. One RUC officer had a dog with him, which initially appeared to be calm. The civilians waiting inside the hospital were visibly angry and upset and the heavy police presence inside the hospital seems to have angered them further.
"There was name-calling between those civilians waiting - about 8 or 10 and the cops - maybe about half a dozen inside [the reception area], with a lot more outside." said one witness who was waiting inside the casualty department.
The witnesses consistently report that the most serious incident began between two and two thirty am. There were around half a dozen RUC officers in the waiting area and a larger number just beyond, outside the large set of double doors at the entrance to the waiting area. At the other end of the waiting area there is another set of double doors, into the treatment area.
After some trading of insults, the RUC dog-handler slapped a civilian in the face, apparently in a fit of temper. The waiting crowd responded verbally and one woman asked the RUC officer for his number. It appears that the RUC officer then allowed the dog to jump up at the man he had slapped and at that point about 15 RUC officers in riot gear charged through the double doors and drew their batons. Witnesses report that they then set about thumping and hitting the crowd of waiting injured and relatives.
"The RUC in riot gear approached the members of the public with batons drawn. There was considerable pushing and shoving during which the RUC began to hit people with their batons. RUC officers were saying `Get the bastards out'."
observes one witness who was in the casualty waiting area. Another reports that
"The cops barged in the door and started batoning people." and adds "I didn't understand why."These people were forced by the RUC and the Alsatian dog back through the waiting area, through the second set of double doors. A number of witnesses report that it was here, at this second set of doors, that the worst beating took place.
"I ran back into casualty. I was hit on at least three occasions...Four or five of the [RUC] officers were at the second set of double doors and they were severely beating one male. Another man who tried to intervene was also beaten by police officers." [Witness 1] "A man was lying on the ground, with his hands over his head. I believe he was unconscious. A number of RUC officers were hitting him with batons." [Witness 2]
"There was one young fella who got a fierce batoning, from maybe about four of them [RUC officers]. One RUC man shouted `grab that wee bastard there'. He was then dragged out the door. They were batoning anyone who got in their way. Both outpatients and family were getting attacked - maybe ten people were hit at this point." [Witness 3]
The RUC version of these event is that " RUC officers were providing security for injured colleagues ... and a small number of officers were forced to draw batons and with the assistance of a police dog, dispersed the unruly mob in the waiting area near casualty" (Derry Journal, 16 July 1996). This version of events was later repeated by Tom Melaugh, (Irish News, 13 July 1996) a senior manager at Altnagelvin, although he does not appear to have been present at the incident.
None of the witnesses who gave statements to the Pat Finucane Centre and the CAJ saw any injured RUC officer in the vicinity of the incident.
A number of people complained immediately to the hospital staff there and they contacted Stella Burnside, the Chief Executive of Altnagelvin Hospital. In the meantime the man who had been beaten, apparently unconscious, by the RUC was attended to by hospital medical staff. Mrs. Burnside spoke to at least one witness and subsequently apparently asked the RUC to withdraw from the hospital at around 2.45 am This has subsequently been confirmed by the hospital
"A spokeswoman for Altnagelvin confirmed hospital manager Stella Burnside asked the police to leave." (Irish News 13 July 1996)
The hospital is currently undertaking an internal review of the incident, but it is understood that the review will not be made public. This is common practice with such reviews. The Area Health Board will however be briefed as to its outcome and findings. There is a security video recording of the night of 11/12 July and we understand that the hospital has secured this tape. The hospital has made it clear to the CAJ that its primary purpose is to ensure that anyone who comes to the hospital should be able to do so with a clear view that their details are confidential. When asked by the CAJ about the video tape, the hospital made it clear that the tape has not been seen by anyone outside the hospital administration and that it will not be made available to anyone without a court order, in order to protect patient confidentiality.Back to top
7. The Death of Dermot McShane
On the morning of Saturday, 13 July, a man died after being run over by an armoured personnel carrier at around 2 o'clock in the morning. Dermot McShane, aged 35, from the Lone Moor Road, died in Altnagelvin hospital from injuries sustained when a British Army saxon rammed and crushed him under a hoarding behind which he had been shielding during Derry's second night of street fighting. The incident happened outside Mullan's Bar on Little James' Street. According to the RUC's Acting Assistant Chief Constable for the North region, Tom Craig, the saxon was making it's way to clear a skip which was being used as cover by people firing petrol bombs. He went onto say: "At this time police discovered a seriously injured man."
In the following week RUC Chief Constable Hugh Annesley announced that a senior detective had been appointed to lead an investigation into Dermot McShane's death. The police appealed for witnesses to come forward to assist in this investigation. To date the security forces have not offered any further details about the circumstances relating to Dermot McShane's death.
On the morning of 13 July the Pat Finucane Centre and the Committee on the Administration of Justice, appealed for witnesses to give statements relating to the riots. Ten of the people who gave statements, including a journalist and a legal observer, were witnesses to the death of Dermot McShane and to events before and after. Some of the witnesses report that prior to Dermot's death Great James' Street had become chock-a-block with saxons, landrovers and troop carriers. Others attest to the hostile attitude of the security forces during the build-up to the incident in which Dermot McShane was killed. Witnesses state that the soldiers had psyched themselves up in rugby-style huddles before going in and firing plastic bullets from the advancing cordon. The drivers of both saxons and landrovers had revved their engines prior to charging at the rioters at high speed. The soldiers then withdrew before charging again in a pincer manoeuvre designed to entice and trap the less fearful rioters. Witnesses spoke of "pandemonium" and "blood lust" in their description of military attitudes before the fatal security forces advance. Most of the witnesses talked of the continuous firing of plastic bullets by the RUC and the army. Estimates given by them of the number of plastic bullets fired on that night on Little James' Street are at odds with the official estimates given by the security forces. One witness:
"asked an army officer why they were firing so many plastic bullets and he replied `They deserve it'". An RUC sniper said `its time for the lead'. Other RUC officers said that it was the most they had ever fired and on at least five occasions I saw soldiers and RUC personnel using brush shafts to try and clear jammed weapons that they said were over heating. One group told me it was not a common occurrence and `what do you expect when its like this'. In a four and a half hour period I personally witnessed over thirty ammunition boxes, each containing 25 rounds being brought forward, emptied and discarded by the RUC alone. The army had their own supply and they were firing on a par with the RUC. They were quite literally ankle deep in plastic bullet casings and had to clear the area around them a number of times."We reprint here excerpts from the statement given to the Pat Finucane Centre by the man to whom the RUC, in their press release of 17 July, have specifically appealed to come forward to help with their investigation. Before giving his statement, the man told the centre that he would not be going to the RUC with his statement because he regards the RUC as a totality discredited and unacceptable police force.
"The crowd at Little James' Street were up close to the cordon. Some people were behind a boarding and the skip... The order to move forward was given ... and orders to baton gunners was given to fire volleys once the line had been achieved to the end of the Post Office wall. Another order was `anything moves hit it'. I was in the middle of the road about 20-25 feet behind the cordon and I could see through the gap where the saxon and RUC landrover were and that some of the crowd were holding their ground but as the cordon moved forward at walking pace firing plastics at will, the crowd rapidly dispersed in all directions... One of the saxons moved further forward faster than the rest of the cordon... I gathered that someone was behind the boarding, maybe two to three persons. The saxon hit the boarding knocking it to the ground. It stopped momentarily for possibly 2 to 3 seconds and moved forward. The rest of the cordon moved quickly to where the saxon was and took up a position at the end of the wall firing plastics continuously. All of a sudden I could see a body lying on the ground with another man cradling him. He was screaming for help. `Please help us....please somebody help us'."In nearly all of the statements the British Army saxon is described as having paused as it hit the hoarding behind which Dermot McShane had fallen. It then drove up onto it and stopped on the top of the hoarding before driving off. When the vehicle hit the board, say the witnesses, the army must have known that there was someone there, because the hoarding couldn't have stayed upright on its own and because the man's legs could be seen sticking out after it fell. Visibility was good. The street-lights were on and a helicopter spotlight was illuminating the area where Dermot McShane fell. When the vehicle drove onto the hoarding one witness shouted "there's a fella underneath". Another that "there's a man underneath that board". Another statement describes someone screaming at the driver of the vehicle to stop. A number of people are said then to have rushed to assist McShane. This did not stop the security forces from continuing their advance, firing plastic bullets and batoning anyone trying to help the fatally injured man.
"At this point I held my hands in the air and waved them frantically and knelt down and shouted, pointing with my right and waving with my left to plead with them to stop. I was trying to indicate as clearly as I could that there was a man underneath the hoarding. They continued to drive towards us and drove over the hoarding. I was still waving and pointing. Then a group of police men attacked, batoning me before they moved on. Then soldiers came and started to baton me. I continued to shout frantically about McShane but they did not listen, they continued to hit me."The contempt with which the fatally injured man was treated at this stage and the aggressive intent of the military operation which led to those injuries are in direct contrast to the official version which suggests that the death was an accident and that the attitude of the security forces was bona fide.Back to top
8. Riot damageBack to top
Thursday night - Friday morning (11/12 July) 12.00 - 6.00
Littlewoods suffered serious fire damage and thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused to computer equipment in the First Trust Bank. Smoke damage was also caused to Wellworth's store in Waterloo Place before local people challenged the looters and helped to save the store.
Four privately owned vehicles were destroyed by fire in city centre car parks on night of Thursday, 11 July. Among these were a camper van owned by a French couple who were holidaying in the Derry area. An articulated lorry was hijacked and set of fire at the bottom of the flyover which enters Rossville Street from Bishop Street and Abercorn Road. This vehicle remained in place until a clear up operation in the early hours of Sunday night/Monday morning.Back to top
Friday night (12 July)
Damage was caused to the Royal Mail sorting office windows in the Great James Street area. Vehicles were hijacked and used as barricades in William Street.Back to top
Saturday (13 July)
At a peaceful nationalist rally in Derry Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin appealed to 15,000 people to remain calm and he specifically asked the youth to refrain from rioting,
"despite the intense provocations which they are facing at the hands of the RUC I would appeal to people not to take their anger out on the property of the citizens of Derry. If nationalists allowed themselves to be drawn into the orgy of looting practised by the loyalists over the past week, the British Government would use the scenes to hide its responsibility".
In response to a Sinn Féin request local publicans closed their premises at 6 pm. as a mark of respect to Dermot McShane and in an attempt to reduce the possibility of confrontation between local youths and the RUC/British Army. Despite this, further confrontations occurred on Saturday night. Cars and vans were hijacked and set on fire and local youths used a hijacked bread van to strengthen barricades across William Street and Rossville Street. A number of youths threw petrol bombs onto the roof of the Post Office sorting office at the corner of Little James and Great James Streets. More petrol bombs caused further damage to the sorting office building causing serious disruption to mail deliveries in and around the city.
The worst damage was the destruction of Jackie Mullan's bar and the adjoining electrical shop,paint shop and family bakery. The Cleansing Department of Derry City Council estimated that they cleared away over 40 burnt out vehicles after the weekend.
There were also complaints from residents in the Fahan Street area that despite good street lighting, the British Army almost caused a catastrophe by firing flares, one landing beside a family's domestic oil tank. Residents said that there was no trouble in the area when the flares were fired.
Due to riot damage many local people lost their jobs and income. Local family businesses were destroyed.Back to top
"The parties undertake to take appropriate measures to protect persons who may be subject to threats or acts of discrimination, hostility or violence as a result of their ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious identity." (Article 6 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe)
As the stand-off developed at Drumcree widespread intimidation was reported throughout the North. Catholic churches, schools and homes were attacked. Roads were blocked, sometimes by small groups of men observed by the RUC who then turned traffic away. In the Derry area roads were repeatedly blocked in Drumahoe, Newbuildings, and Nelson Drive and both bridges over the Foyle were blocked on various occasions in the days following the Drumcree stand-off. Both Catholics and Protestants were afraid to undertake any journey by car or public transport and were indeed advised by the RUC not to do so. These incidents have been publicised. Less attention has been paid to the often invisible acts of intimidation, the anonymous phone call, the unsigned threatening letter or the passing comment in the street. Rumours abound in the Derry area many of which are difficult to substantiate. Following contact with community workers the following picture does emerge of events following the Drumcree stand-off.
On Sunday 7 July a number of Catholic residents in Hawkin Street which leads into the largely Protestant Fountain Estate were stoned while parking their car on the street. The Crossan family had their downstairs windows broken. When the father approached RUC men in the back lane to ask for protection he was told that both he and his wife would be arrested. (This man spoke out in an interview the following day on Radio Foyle.) The RUC watched from approximately 20 yards distance and failed to intervene or move up the street to a position where the residents would have had protection. One couple moved out of the street that night. The following night the Crossan family was again attacked and cars belonging to Catholic residents had their windows smashed. As a result of anti-catholic intimidation two mixed couples who lived in the Fountain itself were forced to leave their homes because they lived with Catholic partners.
Property belonging to a local Protestant was fire bombed in Abercorn Road on 11 July.
Intimidation and rumours of intimidation were not restricted to the west bank of the Foyle. A Catholic milkman was threatened and chased by a mob in the Rossdowney Road area. In the largely Catholic Currynierin estate in the Waterside there were rumours that Protestant families received letters giving them "48 hours to get out." No letters were in fact sent as confirmed to us by local community workers. However a mixed couple who lived on the estate were forced to leave their home after threats were received alleging that the Protestant partner had been seen at a loyalist roadblock in Drumahoe. The family were escorted out by an RUC patrol. It was reported in the Derry Journal that Catholics in the Newbuildings area were intimidated. An Irish Times report (16 July) that ten Protestant families had been forced from their homes in the Waterside area cannot be corroborated by any of the community leaders/workers from Protestant areas that we have talked to. However 20 cars belonging to Protestant families had their tyres slashed. It is reported that five Protestant families are in the process of moving out of Strathfoyle. This cannot be confirmed though it seems likely that families are moving as a result of intimidation. An attempt was made to set fire to Clondermott High School which is perceived to be Protestant. A respected community worker has said that a group of young loyalists from the Waterside intended setting fire to the Catholic Chapel in Newbuildings but were prevented from doing so by local Protestants. Groups of rioters in the largely Protestant Tullyally and largely Catholic Currynierin estates could have attacked each other but aimed almost exclusively at the RUC in what appears to have been a rare display of working class unity. There were minor sectarian skirmishes during which a Catholic pensioner had a window smashed. The next morning young people from the Tullyally estate apologised to the pensioner. A youth worker in Currynierin was badly beaten up and hospitalised when he appealed to young nationalists on the estate not to riot. There are a number of allegations that the attack was led by people linked to drugs in the area. There are reports of intimidation of Catholics in the Cloony area of the Waterside. We have been shown a threatening letter sent to one family in the area. A taxi firm in the Waterside received a phone call naming one of its Protestant drivers and threatening to burn his car. A local nationalist community worker intervened and the threats stopped.
Following the RUC decision to allow the Orange march through the Garvaghy Road in Portadown a confrontation developed between rival groups of youths in the Bishop Street/Fountain area. Insults then stones and bottles were exchanged followed by petrol bombs which were thrown into the Fountain estate hitting gable walls. A number of petrol bombs were also thrown from the Fountain. When the RUC came on the scene they then fired plastic bullets at Catholic youths and at people leaving pubs in the Bishop Street area. (One young man leaving a pub was seriously injured in this incident. See The Use of Plastic Bullets). Local people in the Long Tower area allege that an RUC man behind the security fence in the Fountain estate (corner of Bennet Street) was firing plastic bullets through the fence while a loyalist standing beside him was throwing stones. In the wake of this confrontation three Protestant families who lived close to the security fence moved out of the Fountain area.
In the largely Catholic Shantallow area a family was forced to leave their home after the Protestant partner received a threatening letter. Nearby an attempt was made to set fire to Ballyarnet Presbyterian Church. On Friday July 26 a large crowd attacked a Catholic pub in the Dungiven Road area of the Waterside and a number of people were injured. The RUC are alleged to have ignored the attack. This followed an incident on the Eleventh night when a crowd had gathered outside a nearby bar and chanted "we're the bully boys of Drumcree."
People within the Protestant community in Derry have told us that young Protestants have been threatened in the Foyleside shopping centre and city centre areas.
There can be no doubt that the Rev. Ian Paisley and David Trimble intended to unleash a wave of sectarianism through their actions in Drumcree. They must ultimately bear the responsibility for the UVF murder of Michael McGoldrick and the widespread intimidation of Catholics throughout the North. Germans, in the wake of the holocaust, developed a name for those who bear responsibility but claim clean hands. They were called Schreibtischtäter or desk perpetrators. The men in suits who whisper to others in back rooms. This is the backdrop against which intimidation must be seen. The uncomfortable truth is however that the human right to live, work and relax has been denied to many people in this community in recent weeks, both Catholic and Protestant.Back to top
10. Conclusions & RecommendationsBack to top
The conclusions of the Pat Finucane Centre with regard to the events about which we have reported are:
- that the actions of the RUC were the primary cause of civil unrest in Derry over the period covered by the report
- that the RUC continues to act in a manner which is explicitly sectarian in character and which has undermined the last vestiges of confidence which some nationalists might have had
- that the RUC's use of plastic bullets was wilful and unlawful in terms of their own guidelines and was designed to inflict massive injuries and even death on many people in the city
- that at least 332 people were injured, many seriously, because of being hit by plastic bullets. This figure does not reflect the true number of those injured as many people did not seek medical attention
- that there should be a legally constituted international inquiry into the death of Dermot McShane
- that the RUC be speedily replaced as the police force for Northern Ireland by a police service which is acceptable to all traditions within Ireland and whose officers are committed to serving the community impartially and in accordance with international recognised standards of human rights
- that pending agreement about a new police service, the RUC be withdrawn from those areas where they are unacceptable and replaced by a police service drawn from the countries of the European Union
- that the British army be withdrawn to barracks and its use prohibited in areas where they are unacceptable or in riot situations
- that plastic bullets should be withdrawn immediately and should not be available to any police service in the North of Ireland
30 July 1996Back to top
FIVE REASONS TO BAN PLASTIC BULLETSBack to top
PLASTIC BULLETS ARE LETHAL WEAPONS CAUSING HORRIFIC INJURY AND DEATH
Plastic bullets are made of rock-hard PVC, they are 3.5 inches long, they leave the barrel at over 160 mph and according to US army research, they cause `severe damage resulting in such injuries as skull fractures and fragmentation of the liver'.
17 deaths and thousands of injuries later, those who argue that plastic bullets don't kill or maim are either callously insensitive or are afraid that they will lose a media-friendly weapon of sectarian oppression. The European Parliament has passed four separate motions calling for their banning.Back to top
THE RULES GOVERNING THE USE OF PLASTIC BULLETS ARE NOT ADHERED TO
According to official rules, plastic bullets should only be fired:
- to disperse a crowd whenever it is judged to be the minimum and reasonable force necessary
- if aimed so that they strike the lower half of the target's body directly
- at a range exceeding 20 metres except where the safety of soldiers or others is seriously threatened
There has been documented wholesale abuse of the rules governing the use of plastic bullets. Time after time they have been used in non-riot situations, target victims have been struck in the upper body and head, rounds have been struck in the upper body and head, rounds have been fired from close range.Back to top
THOSE WHO USE PLASTIC BULLETS GET AWAY WITH MURDER
Throughout the history of the misuse of rubber and plastic bullets, the 17 deaths, the thousands of maimings, disfigurations and blindings, no member of the security forces has ever been convicted for any offence arising from their use. In all but one case there has been a failure to even prosecute.
Families of victims who have pursued redress have been harassed and intimidated. In some cases, such as that of John Downes, the State refused to hold an inquest.Back to top
PLASTIC BULLETS HAVE BEEN USED AS A SECTARIAN AND INTIMIDATORY WEAPON
It is not insignificant that 16 of the 17 deaths caused by rubber and plastic bullets were Catholics. These weapons are systematically used as a means of intimidation in Nationalist areas.
These dangerous, lethal weapons should not be used against anyone, under any circumstances, in any area. In Drumcree-related (Loyalist) disturbances, 662 plastic bullets were fired. Later riots in Nationalist areas saw 5,340 plastic bullets fired. Nothing demonstrates the sectarian nature of this weapon more clearly.Back to top
PLASTIC BULLETS HAVE NOT FURTHERED PEACE, THEY HAVE PROLONGED THE CONFLICT
The lethal and trigger-happy use of rubber and plastic bullets has only caused further alienation of Nationalists and increased distrust of the security forces. The flaunting of justice, the impunity with which police and army can kill and disfigure its victims, the frustration of the families of the dead and injured do nothing to further the cause of peace. Indeed, their continued use is an obstacle on the road to peace.
The United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets have demanded the immediate banning of these weapons.
The United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets, c/o 92 Stewartstown Park, Belfast 11, Ireland. Tel: (01232) 6222854Back to top