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PSNI response to Billy Wright poster row dubbed ‘disgraceful'

A banner on a light pole in Memory of Billy Wright in Dungannon.
Connla Young

THE PSNI’s explanation for failing to remove a banner which gloats about the UVF murder of four Co Tyrone men has been branded "as "disgraceful."

Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone hit out on Tuesday night after Dungannon based Inspector Keith Jamieson said the force “must attempt to achieve a balance between the rights of one community over another” after it was criticised by the mother of UVF victim Dwayne O’Donnell.

The 17-year-old was one of three IRA members killed during a loyalist gun attack at Boyle's Bar in Cappagh, near Dungannon, in March 1991.

Republicans Malcolm Nugent (20) and John Quinn (23), were also shot dead along with civilian Thomas Armstrong (52) when the loyalist gunmen struck.

Mr McGlone reacted angrily to the remarks last night branding them “sick” and called on the senior officer to withdraw them.

The controversial Billy Wright poster was put up on a lamppost in the loyalist Eastvale Avenue area of Dungannon about two weeks ago.

It reads: “In proud memory of Brigadier Billy Wright" and carries the quote 'I would look back and say Cappagh was probably my best.'

Former UVF leader Wright, who went on to found the Loyalist Volunteers Force, is believed to have had a central role in the Cappagh attack.

Mr O’Donnell’s mother, Briege O’Donnell, has criticised the PSNIs failure to remove the banner.

”We would question what exactly have the police done, as the poster still remains in place,” she said.

”Surely as a hate crime there are protocols that must be followed and this should have been removed in the first instance.

”Sadly it still remains intact in Eastvale.”

Mrs O’Donnell said the wording on the poster is offensive.

”If it was a poster of Billy Wright, there wouldn’t be an issue, its the quote that accompanies the poster glorifying the killing of people,” she said.

Relatives of those killed believe there was collusion.

A report published by Relatives For Justice earlier this year claimed that four members of the UDR were later questioned about the murders.

The PSNI has previously said it was "working with people in the community" to have the banner removed.

However, on Tuesday night Inspector Jamieson said: “There is no doubt that this sign will be perceived by some to be offensive, but not by others and while we are sensitive to the feelings of victims families, the PSNI must attempt to achieve a balance between the rights of one community over another, and of course must act within the law.

“We are working with the community in an attempt to resolve this matter and we will continue to do so.”

Mr McGlone, who has previously condemned the banner, described the police attitude as "disgraceful."

“It’s not a balance of rights, it’s a balance of wrongs,” he said.

“It’s disgraceful that a police officer should equivocate about the rights and wrongs of that poster and he should immediately reflect on what he said and withdraw it.”

Mr McGlone said the issue is clear cut.

“Murder is wrong no matter who the victims are,” he said.

“To try and neutralise a poster that brags about the murder is in my book sick.”

Mrs O’Donnell’s solicitor Peter Corrigan last night said the PSNI has not responded to his requests to have the banner removed.

”We reported this to the police and is a clear violation,” he said.

”Its incitement to hatred and glorification of terrorism."

Mr Corrigan said the banner breached Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights which gives his client the right to dignity and to be allowed to grieve properly.

The solicitor said relatives are also considering legal action to force the PSNI to hand over a Historical Enquiries Team report into the murders.

”They (relatives) should not have to do that, they (PSNI) should reveal the HET report,” he said.

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