Campaign Against Plastic Bullets
The origins of BSSRS lay in concern about research into chemical and Biological weapons, and the society’s foundation was swiftly followed by the saturation use of CS gas in Derry in 1969. CS gas proving to have operational drawbacks, the British Army (which by then had taken over security duties in Northern Ireland) soon adopted rubber bullets, and then plastic bullets, as their principal weapon for dispelling potential riots.
BSSRS soon became involved in revealing and critiquing the wide variety of ‘security’-related technological innovations which the Northern Ireland crisis spawned. This array was given the name ‘The Technology of Political Control’ in the BSSRS book of the same name (Penguin, 1977; 2nd edition Pluto 1980). Over 100,000 of these impact weapons were fired between 1970 and 1989, causing 14 deaths and hundreds of injuries, many of them severe.
Initially BSSRS was almost alone outside the Irish republican community in campaigning against these weapons. As the casualty figures grew BSSRS joined forces with the National Council for Civil Liberties (now ‘Liberty’) to launch the Campaign Against Plastic Bullets, with a range of distinguished patrons. The campaign produced a range of informative material, from speakers’ notes to A5 leaflets. The combination of NCCL’s campaigning experience and BSSRS’s detailed domain knowledge achieved the aim of wider public awareness of their misuse, and of their potentially grave consequences even when used according to the official rules of engagement.