I was on remand in Crumlin Road Gaol when the news reported a man being killed by the RUC in Andersonstown this day 1984. The news wasn't as constant as it is now and we would switch between the limited stations - we weren't allowed FM radios in - whenever there was news of killings, bombings etc. In those days those news flashes were coming in regularly. Being from that part of the city there was a good possibility I knew the man and this was indeed the case when the name came on the radio as that of John Downes. John was my cousin and unknown to me our ones sent word into the gaol but they didn't tell me. There was no chance of me getting bail given what was charged with.
John was very thick my brother Liam and when he visited me a week or two later he was as angry as he was sad and I could fully understand his anger. John was shot at point black by an RUC thug firing a plastic bullet at his chest from a matter of feet away. As can be seen from the photo there were many witnesses to the killing but as expected the thug who fired the bullet got away with it.
As has been said many times, the RUC grew from the RIC and has now morphed into the PSNI and they will always be sectarian and do anything to protect the British interest in this putrid little statelet.
The SDLP rightly came under criticism at that time for supporting them and the most vocal critics were republicans, many of whom now wine and dine with them. They bring them into our schools, community centres and places such as South Armagh where they hadn't the nerve to go in their heavily armoured vehicles.
John was one of many killed and wounded with rubber and plastic bullets and although a SF member famously said they will 'put manners' on the PSNI-RUC they still go on to our streets with plastic bullets and rest assured they will use them once again and some other person will be killed or seriously injured.