Northern Ireland news

British government files on plastic bullets closed up to additional 50 years

Julie Livingstone (14) was killed by a plastic bullet in 1981

THE BRITISH government has been accused of "going to any length to protect its own interest" after it emerged files on plastic bullets have been closed up to an additional 50 years.

The distraught family of 14-year-old Julie Livingstone, who was killed by a plastic bullet in 1981, say the sealing of her National Archives file for a further 45 years means "nobody who ever knew her will be alive by then".

The teenager was returning from a shop on the Stewartstown Road in west Belfast when she fatally injured by a plastic bullet fired from a British army vehicle on May 12. She died the next day.

According to the Pat Finucane Centre, the file of 15-year-old Paul Whitters - who died on April 25 1981, 10 days after being struck by a plastic bullet by the RUC in Derry - has been closed for 40 years and a general file on plastic bullets has been closed until 2071.

It is understood that the decisions were taken earlier this year, with the reasons for both given as "Health and Safety" and "Personal information where the applicant is a 3rd party".

Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice called for Secretary of State Karen Bradley to order the release of the files.

"All families who have experienced state violence know that the British government will go to any length to protect its own interest," he said.

"This strategic policy of impunity for the killing of Irish children clearly extends even to librarians and archives keepers. They too are complicit in the policies that accompany British state violence.

"This decision, undoubtedly made under direction, was made while families are asked to engage in a consultation on dealing with the past.

"This discovery points to the bad faith behind this consultation, as well as displaying the callous indifference of those responsible.

"The least Karen Bradley can do now is meet with the families of Julie Livingstone and Paul Whitters. The very least the keeper of the archives can do under Bradley's instruction is give the families these files."

Elizabeth Livingstone said her sister was "going about her own business" when she was shot and killed.

"What could they possibly not want us to know about it?", she told the Andersonstown News.

"It's not a case of `are they hiding something?' This is about what's being hidden. It's obviously something that would prove an embarrassment to the British government and the NIO."

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office said the Secretary of State "recognises the terrible loss suffered by those who lost loved ones as a result of the Troubles and expresses her sincere condolences to these families during this extremely difficult time (but) cannot comment publicly on specific cases but will respond privately to correspondence".

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