TRIBUTES have been paid to Belfast man Jim McCabe, a committed campaigner against the use of plastic bullets, after he passed away on Saturday.
Mr McCabe campaigned tirelessly against the use of the rounds after his wife was killed by a plastic bullet fired by the RUC in 1981.
The supposed 'non-lethal' projectiles used by the British Army in Northern Ireland — as well as their forerunner, rubber bullets — have been attributed to 17 deaths during the Troubles, including those of eight children.
It was with the heaviest of hearts that we learned yesterday Morning of the passing of our esteemed Member Jim McCabe.
Mark Thompson, Relatives for Justice: “Jim was a founding Member of Relatives for Justice and a key part of the development of RFJ. pic.twitter.com/pyROFrSAju
— Relatives 4 Justice #NeverGivingUp (@RelsForJustice) January 22, 2023
After being widowed by the tragedy and with his three young children losing their mother, Mr McCabe threw himself into campaigning to have the baton rounds banned.
He helped set up the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets and took his fight around the globe but as Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey revealed in his tribute to Mr McCabe, the campaign took its toll.
"In July 1981, Jim's 33-year-old wife Nora was murdered by a plastic bullet fired by the RUC when she was returning from the shop with a pint of milk to her home in Linden Street in the Falls," said the West Belfast MP.
"Jim and Nora had three children when she was murdered, the youngest only three months old.
"In a statement following the incident, the RUC lied claiming there had been rioting in the area when the bullet was fired.
"Jim McCabe and his family were devastated but he immediately decided that he would do all in his power to get justice for his wife and the other victims of plastic bullets fired by the RUC and British Army.
"He campaigned against the use of plastic bullets by British state forces and travelled the world to tell his story and that of the other victims of plastic bullets, including children.
"He was one of the founders of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets in 1985.
'Champion for human rights'
"The RUC's lie about Nora's case was eventually exposed.
"A Canadian TV crew which had been filming in the area at the time showed conclusively that the area was quiet when the RUC fired the plastic bullet which fatally wounded Nora.
"Jim campaigned for decades to ban the use of these lethal weapons and he and his family regularly attended protests and rallies against their use.
"The years of campaigning took its toll on Jim and his family, but [in 2021] on the 40th anniversary on July 7, they marked Nora's death by unveiling a plaque in Linden Street in her memory.
"Today the McCabe family have lost their dad and grandad, the community of West Belfast have lost a champion for justice and human rights."
Maskey's party colleague, Belfast City councillor Claire Canavan, also paid tribute to Mr McCabe and his legacy.
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jim McCabe earlier today," she posted on social media.
"Jim's family have lost a much-loved daddy and granda.
"The community of West Belfast have lost a champion for justice and human rights."
Fight for justice
Mr McCabe also helped set up the victims' group Relatives for Justice (RFJ).
Mark Thompson, CEO of RFJ, said Mr McCabe channelled his personal tragedy into working for a better society for all communities in Northern Ireland.
"Despite the atrocity of his wife's killing by the RUC with a plastic bullet, the systemic cover-up and the impunity, Jim fought for a better justice system," said Thompson.
"He fought for a decent, non-sectarian police service which all of our communities could have confidence in.
"He fought for policing tactics that are human rights-compliant and do not have plastic bullets in their armoury.
"He fought so that no children would experience the loss of their mother the way his three children lost Nóra."
Thompson added: "As we continue our struggle for victims' rights, truth and Justice, Jim McCabe's legacy will keep us dedicated and true."