PSNI say Billy Wright banner 'hate incident' but not 'hate crime'

Police have said a banner which gloats about the murder of four men is a 'hate incident' but not a 'hate crime'
Connla Young

THE PSNI has said it is not treating the erection of a banner which gloated about the murder of four men in Co Tyrone as a "hate crime".

Mid Ulster District Commander Mike Baird said it was “recorded as a hate incident” but "no crime has been disclosed”.

The controversial banner was put up in the Eastvale area of Dungannon earlier this month and included an image of former UVF leader Billy Wright with the words: “In proud memory of Brigadier Billy Wright".

It also carried the quote "I would look back and say Cappagh was probably my best."

This is believed to be a reference to the UVF murder of three IRA men, Dwayne O’Donnell (17), Malcolm Nugent (20) and John Quinn (23), who along with civilian Thomas Armstrong died during a gun attack at Boyle’s Bar in Cappagh in 1991.

The PSNI’s failure to remove the banner sparked a furious reaction from relatives of the dead, campaign groups and nationalist politicians.

There was fresh anger this week when Dungannon-based PSNI inspector Keith Jamieson said police "must attempt to achieve a balance between the rights of one community over another".

The banner was reported to police by Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone as "incitement to hatred" two weeks ago.

Asked how it was being treated, Superintendent Baird last night said: “This has been recorded as a hate incident, however, it is our assessment that no crime has been disclosed, therefore, it has not been recorded as a hate crime.”

The original banner was replaced by a new one on Wednesday which shows Wright, who went on to set up the LVF, standing in front of Drumcree Church in Portadown with the words “In proud memory, Billy Wright, a true son of Ulster."

There is no reference to the Cappagh killings on the new banner although it does carry a quote from the loyalist.

The Irish News understands the original banner was damaged during an attempt to remove it on Wednesday morning.

It is believed a man used a Stanley knife to slash the banner in half before making off.

SDLP Policing Board member Nichola Mallon has said she intends to question PSNI chief constable George Hamilton in the coming weeks, while Sinn Féin assembly member Linda Dillon also intends to meet police.

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