Patten Report: The Civilian Victim - `They killed my wife - I will not forget the past'

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The Independent Online
JIM McCABE'S wife, Nora, had left her sister's house to buy cigarettes from a shop off the Falls Road when she was hit by a plastic bullet fired from the gun of a policeman. The bullet fractured her skull and she died the following day, having never regained consciousness. She was 33 and the mother of three young children.

The RUC insisted it had not been firing in the area, though a subsequent inquest found Mrs McCabe had been the innocent victim of a police bullet fired into an almost empty street. No officer was ever prosecuted over her death.

That was in 1981. Mr McCabe, left to bring up three children, is now a leading member of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets and a staunch advocate of reform.

"I would like to have seen the RUC disbanded but I knew that was not going to happen," he said yesterday, describing himself as disappointed but not surprised by the report. "What I wanted to see, and what others who have suffered would like to see, is that there would be no place in the force for people responsible for these sorts of crimes. All we are going to have now is the same force with a different name.

"Any force that contains people like this will not be acceptable to me and it will not be acceptable to my children. Mr Patten said we had to forget the past, well I'm not forgetting the past. I think there was a new word invented here today - not patronising, but Pattenising."

Mr McCabe, 51, from west Belfast, said he considered that the RUC had murdered his wife, and yet no one was ever brought to justice. All he ever received was a small compensation payment.

He was "bitterly disappointed" that the Patten Report did not suggest the scrapping of plastic bullets.

"He said there was no alternative - well that does not wash with me and it does not wash with other victims. What about the police in England and Wales? Look at the riots they have to deal with, without a single plastic bullet being fired."

Like many in the nationalist community, Mr McCabe said the recommendations did little to inspire confidence: "If these children are to be our future they deserve a police force that is fair. The RUC was set up to protect the unionist state and it has been doing it ever since.

"I would like to see the RUC being made up of people who are sincere about policing issues and who will serve the whole community and not just part of the community."

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