PSNI breaks silence on removal of Margaret Thatcher sign

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher

THE PSNI has said it removed a derogatory sign about Margaret Thatcher because it "may have led to a breach of the peace".

Police said its location along a main road into Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh was also a factor and a complaint had been received.

The explanation comes a week after the PSNI confirmed officers took down a display about the ex-British prime minister around the time of her death in 2013.

It emerged amid criticism of police for failing to step in last month to remove a banner in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, about ex-UVF leader Billy Wright.

The display in Dungannon's Eastvale Avenue area carried the quote: "I would look back and say Cappagh was probably my best" – an apparent reference to the UVF murder of three IRA men and a civilian in 1991.

There was further anger when in response a senior officer said police "must attempt to achieve a balance between the rights of one community over another".

Dungannon-based inspector Keith Jamieson also said the banner "will be perceived by some to be offensive, but not by others".

Last week SDLP Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone, who reported the Wright banner to police as 'incitement to hatred', branded the PSNI's different approaches as "rank hypocrisy".

It had been alleged by a security source that officers removed the Margaret Thatcher sign without receiving any complaints from members of the public.

However, in a statement – issued a week after being asked by The Irish News why the display was removed – the PSNI said it did receive a complaint.

Chief inspector Roy Robinson said: "Police took the banner down based on the fact that it was on a main arterial route into Enniskillen and may have led to a breach of the peace. A complaint was received."

At the Policing Board on Thursday chief constable George Hamilton expressed regret over the PSNI's handling of controversy surrounding the Wright banner, which has since been removed.