31 March 2006

Tooled to the teeth


Concerns over PSNI weaponry arsenal as water cannon ‘showcase’ takes place

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHoly Cross Priest Fr Aidan Troy has described the PSNI water cannon arsenal as “very, very dangerous” ahead of a “showcase” demonstration today in Antrim.
The high profile PR exercise to display their water cannon to other police forces in Ireland and Britain was expected to take place in Steeple barracks.
Those attending, including the Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan and representatives of An Garda Síochána, are to be given a demonstration of the equipment and how it can be used in riot situations.
Fr Troy, who last summer was pelted with water when a powerful water cannon was deployed by the PSNI to quell riots on the Twelfth in Ardoyne, today questioned the use of the cannon.
“I would be very, very sceptical of making too much out of the efficiency and the effectiveness of water cannon because they really mark a failure of dialogue and good community relations. And while I recognise that perhaps in dire situations there may be a need for them I have seen them used in situations where they really did more harm than good
“While some security experts might say they are necessary, having been on the end of a water cannon I can say that it’s not pleasant and I think it can be very very dangerous.”
It comes during a week that the PSNI also announced that it was seeking to add yet more weaponry to their already extensive arsenal, with electric Taser guns the latest device to be sought by the force. This request has alarmed human rights groups and nationalist political parties who have united against the plans.
Clara Reilly from Relatives for Justice, who has led campaigns against the use of plastic bullets said she feared that the weapon would turn out to be yet another lethal option for the PSNI.
“We would have great concerns about them (Tasers) just as the Children’s Law society and Amnesty International have had, because of their record of having killed so many people where they have been used.
“The PSNI should be concentrating on taking more schooling in human rights and how to respect other people’s human rights rather than going down this militaristic route.”
North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly also questioned why the PSNI needed yet more weapons.
“In March 2003 the Human Rights Commission supported the findings of research into plastic bullets and alternatives being proposed, and recommended that the PSNI not be equipped with any type of electroshock weaponry.
“The reality is that despite calls for plastic bullets to be banned, thousands of new potentially lethal devices have been purchased and now they are seeking to obtain these equally controversial weapons.”
Confirming to the North Belfast News that the Taser weapon would not be replacing any current weaponry but would be used as an addition to current equipment, a PSNI spokeswoman said that the trial of 12 devices was due to begin soon.
“Taser has been approved by the home office for use by Police forces in England and Wales. The Chief Constable is considering its introduction in a pilot capacity to a limited number of specialist firearms officers to provide an addition to our range of less lethal options.
“This is in line with Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) policy and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) recommendations. The police service has briefed a number of statutory agencies as part of a wider consultation exercise on Taser before the Chief Constable makes a decision on its introduction.
“If the Chief Constable goes ahead and makes that decision there is only going to be 12 Tasers introduced as part of the pilot,” she said.

Journalist:: Evan Short

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