Plastic bullets: the agony continues

The tragic death this week of local father-of-two Dominic Marron is a timely reminder to us all that the issue of plastic bullets is still live a live one – much as the gun-crazy thugs within the British establishment here hope that we’ll just forget about it and get on with our lives.

Rather than phase out this deadly weapons as they promised they would, the British government, through the conflict-hungry super-unionists in the NIO, has cynically built up huge stockpiles of new and improved – ie more deadly – plastic bullets even as we’re daily being promised that a new beginning to policing really has taken place.

Sad as the death of Dominic Marron is, his life was an inspiration to us all. The plastic bullet that smashed into his skull and lodged there in 1981 caused devastating damage to him as a 15-year-old schoolboy. After coming out of a coma, Dominic had to learn to walk and talk again – and he had to endure a debilitating range of associated health problems that would have defeated a lesser person many years ago. But Dominic was determined to live his life on his terms. He fought his way out of his hospital bed to live a happy and fulfilled life with a wife and young family that he loved and who – as readers of our story this week will quickly appreciate – loved him very much too. His life may have been short and his passing has left a family and a community bereft, but we can all take comfort in this time of great sadness in the fact that Dominic’s was a life well-lived.

Last week Dominic spent an idyllic summer break in Donegal with his family. As they enjoyed their holiday, this week’s tragedy must have seemed like a million miles away. But as Dominic’s wife Jacqui so honestly and movingly reveals to us today, the couple had both accepted that one day the RUC plastic bullet that smashed into his head would some day take his life. And that is exactly what happened.

Last year, in conjunction with the tireless anti-plastic bullets campaigners in Relatives for Justice, we ran a countdown in the pages of our newspaper to the time when the British government had promised that plastic bullets would be no more. That promise was flagrantly and cynically ditched and today the arsenals of the PSNI and the British army are bursting at the seams with plastic bullets. Those members of the Policing Board who by either silence or acquiescence allowed this grotesque build-up of plastic bullets to take place, and who looked on without comment as promises were broken, should think this morning of Dominic Marron and all those other people, all those other families, all those other communities, whose lives were devastated by plastic bullets.

Had Dominic Marron not succumbed to his injuries this week, we would not be thinking of him today. He would go on living his life in the face of unthinkable mental and physical adversity and we too would go about our business. But Dominic Marron is dead, and this morning as we prepare to bury him, we should spare a thought not just for our plastic bullet dead, but also for those hundreds of living victims who continue to have their lives blighted by horrifying injuries caused by these vile weapons. And we earnestly hope that those involved in the new policing arrangements will think about them too.

A fitting epitaph for Dominic Marron – and given that he endured more suffering even than any of the 17 victims killed by plastic bullets, he would surely agree if he could speak to us – would be that he was the last to die as a result of plastic bullets. But with so many minds and bodies broken by plastic bullets, and with so many plastic bullets in the hands of the British, such an epitaph will not be written for a very long time.

Four years ago we interviewed Dominic Marron as part of a series of articles on victims. There was no anger or bitterness in him, just a realisation that while he had managed to stay alive up to that point, his future was unclear. He said that he thought that he might need a by-pass some time soon; in one of his arms all feeling was gone and he had suffered coronary problems in the aftermath of the shooting. Sadly, his words proved to be poignantly prophetic and on Tuesday his tired and battered heart finally gave out.

Dominic’s death certificate may read cardiac arrest, but the RUC man who fired that plastic bullet all those years ago killed him just as surely as if that 15-year-old schoolboy had never come out of his coma.

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