Northern Ireland news

PSNI refusing to comment further on Billy Wright poster in Dungannon

The controversial Billy Wright banner on a lamppost in Dungannon, Co Tyrone
Brendan Hughes

POLICE are refusing to comment further on a banner glorifying former UVF leader Billy Wright in Co Tyrone amid criticism of their handling of the issue.

The controversial banner was erected on a lamppost on Eastvale Avenue in Dungannon.

It 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 the nearby village in 1991.

Police said they were treating the banner as a "hate incident" but came under fire for failing to step in to remove it.

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

In a statement yesterday, Superintendent Mike Baird said the sign has now been removed "following consultation with local representatives and the community".

However, The Irish News understands the banner was removed last week after it was slashed by a man with a Stanley knife who fled the scene.

It was then replaced by a new design with no reference to the Cappagh killings, but instead showing Wright in front of Drumcree Church in Portadown.

The Irish News asked police to clarify whether the original banner had been removed after being damaged, when it was removed, and what posters remain in the area.

However, police refused to clarify their comments.

Superintendent Baird said: "The original sign has been removed. We are not commenting further regarding this matter."

The SDLP's Patsy McGlone, who reported the original banner to police weeks ago, said he believes they have learned from the "public backlash to their previous insensitive and damaging remarks".

"People here were shocked that such a vicious insult to victims was allowed to remain on public display while the police stood idly by.

"This cannot be allowed to happen again and the PSNI should not be paralysed by fear of offending those who engage in such hateful behaviour."

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