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Dissident 'loose talk' poster in Belfast branded intimidation

By Angela Rainey

Published 22/04/2016

The flyer posted in west Belfast
The flyer posted in west Belfast
The SDLP’s Tim Attwood

A poster pasted on the 'International Wall' in west Belfast warning people to keep their mouths shut has been condemned by community leaders.

The flyer, showing a masked man with a Thompson submachine-gun, states 'Loose talk costs lives' and urges people to avoid it in public spaces. It concludes with a line written in red: 'Whatever you say - say nothing!'

So far no one has claimed responsibility for the Falls Road warning, but dissidents are assumed to be behind it.

It has been criticised as a throwback to the 1970s, and SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said it should be taken down immediately.

"This is deeply sinister and open intimidation. There is a shadow of a gunman hanging over any person who talks. It was an image and a message common years ago, when it was no less offensive or malicious," he said.

"For it to be replicated in this day and age is no less offensive or malicious, and those who placed it should catch themselves on and remove it.

"People should be encouraged to give information to the police in the effort to address terror. That's the message of the people of the Falls Road."

Belfast Irish Senator Mairia Cahill said society had moved on and that such messages only discouraged people from reporting crimes to the police.

"The people who erected it have no idea how hard it is to get abuse victims to go to the police, to get domestic violence victims to report their abuse, to get victims of assault, robbery, car theft and attempted murder to have confidence enough to feel safe to report crimes against them," she said.

"Scaring people, or attempting to control them, is what the IRA did when they erected the very same posters in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. It has no place in society and it shouldn't have had any place then.

"This type of fear is exactly what contributed to the real crime issue that west Belfast has today.

"Whoever erected this needs to give their heads a shake and take it down again. People should be free to live their lives minus intimidation."

The irony behind the message seems to have been lost on the dissidents.

The original anti-gossip campaign, which urged citizens to watch their tongues by not leaking secrets with phrases such as 'Careless talk costs lives' and 'Keep mum, she's not so dumb!' was used by the British Government during the Second World War to prevent the spread of information to its enemies.

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