Northern Ireland news

Site of former RUC station in west Belfast renamed in honour of plastic bullet campaigners

The site of the former Andersonstown police station renamed Groves Reilly Corner, after Clara Reilly (80) and her late friend, Emma Groves, who was blinded by a plastic bullet. Picture by Mal McCann
John Monaghan

THE SITE of a former RUC station in west Belfast has been renamed in honour of two women who campaigned against the use of plastic bullets.

The area, at the junction of the Glen Road and Falls Road outside Milltown Cemetery, will now be known as Groves Reilly Corner after Clara Reilly and the late Emma Groves.

Around 200 people, including 80-year-old Mrs Reilly, gathered on Saturday for the official unveiling ceremony at the site of the old Andersonstown police barracks.

Groves Reilly Corner marks the area where for many decades Mrs Groves, who died in 2007, and Mrs Reilly stood with others at protests outside the station.

Belfast Mayor Deirdre Hargey presents Clara Reilly with a certificate in recognition of her lifetime of campaigning. Picture by Mal McCann

In 1971 Mrs Groves was left blinded by a rubber bullet fired through her living room window by a British solider.

Mrs Groves and Mrs Reilly went on to found the Association for Legal Justice, the first monitoring organisation of alleged human rights infringements by the security forces.

Following the killing of John Downes - who died after being shot with a plastic bullet - outside Connolly House in Andersonstown in 1984, the pair set up United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets.

Clara Reilly watches on during the naming ceremony at the site of the former Andersonstown police barracks. Picture by Mal McCann

Mark Thompson, director of Relatives for Justice - of which Mrs Reilly is chairwoman - told the crowd: "It is a positive day for two wonderful lives who refused to be overshadowed by horrific events that impacted them in the worst imaginable way."

Read More: Bereaved families will fight on for justice says campaigner Clara Reilly

Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams TD said the pair were a "formidable and inseparable team" and that "Clara was Emma’s eyes on the world".

"Two west Belfast women – mothers and grandmothers - who gave hope and leadership in dangerous times and at great personal risk," he said.

Around 200 people gathered for the official unveiling ceremony on Saturday. Picture by Mal McCann

Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey also presented Mrs Reilly with a certificate in recognition of her lifetime of advocating for the community.

Speaking before the ceremony Mrs Reilly said: "I was doing this since 1969 and I would do every minute of it again.

"It is our history and what the nationalist people suffered, I was not prepared to take it lying down. I thought you had to speak out no matter what."

Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams gave a speech during Saturday's ceremony. Picture by Mal McCann

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