Image of the Week

Plastic Bullet Victim 1984

Sean McKernan

Location: Andersonstown Road, West Belfast

Photo Date: 1984

A man is injured by a plastic bullet during an internment commemoration rally in August 1984.
The rally ended in violence after the RUC attempted to arrest one of the speakers, Martin Galvin. Galvin, director of the US-based NORAID (Irish Northern Aid Committee), had succeeded in entering Belfast despite being banned from the UK. Galvin had already appeared at a rally in Derry on 9 August. When he appeared again on 12 August outside Connolly House, Sinn Fein's headquarters in Andersonstown, the RUC moved in to arrest him. During an ensuing altercation with the crowd the RUC discharged plastic baton rounds, killing local man Sean Downes. The incident sparked international coverage as television cameras had captured images of an RUC reserve constable firing the plastic bullet at Mr Downes's chest from a six-foot range, after the victim had run at the officer with a thin white stick. The incident generated huge controversy over alleged misuse of plastic bullets by the security forces. Fresh controversy broke out in 1986 when the officer who fired the bullet was acquitted of a manslaughter charge.