Belfast Telegraph

Man arrested after UVF banner of murderer Somerville is removed from outside primary school

By Leona O'Neill

Tensions in a Co Tyrone village are "extremely high" after a man was arrested following the theft of a controversial banner dedicated to loyalist killer Wesley Somerville, a community representative has warned.

The tribute to Somerville, one of two UVF men who blew themselves up while planting a bomb on the Miami Showband's minibus in 1975, was placed outside a primary school in Moygashel.

It was put up beside another banner paying tribute to the Mid-Ulster UVF and a UVF flag.

Families of UVF victims had called on the police to remove it. However, it was suddenly removed on Friday and police revealed yesterday that a man in his 60s was arrested and released on bail pending further inquiries.

Stephen Travers, who survived the massacre that took three of his friend's lives, says he understood why people would want to remember the man, but hoped they weren't commemorating the event that saw his friends slaughtered. He said any glorification of violence was not good for society.

"It's a picture of a man and people are entitled to remember the man," he said. "I just hope that they are not praising or commemorating the event in some bizarre way. I had no problem with them commemorating the man, he was one of their community. If that's how the people of Moygashel want to be represented then I won't tell them what to do.

"It never offended me, I thought it was a bit sad. Do the people who tolerate that, do they take their children out before they put them to bed and point up at this man and say that's who I want you to be when you grow up? I would find that difficult.

"I can't imagine mothers would tell their child that he was someone they should emulate when they grow up. Any glorification of violence is not good for society, it's not good for anyone."

Mr Travers was just 24 when UVF gunmen shot down three of his band mates on a lonely Co Down road in July 1975.

The notorious Glenanne Gang members had mounted a security checkpoint and flagged the band's tour bus on the A1 at Buskhill. Whilst UVF and UDR members Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville were hiding a timed bomb on the minibus, it exploded and killed them.

The other gang members shot at the band members, murdering singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpet player Brian McCoy. Stephen, Ray Millar and Des McAlea were seriously wounded but survived.

Two serving soldiers and one former soldier were found guilty of the murders and received life sentences. They were released in 1998.

Dungannon DUP Councillor Kim Ashton said that tensions in the area were "extremely high", following the removal of the poster. She stressed that she was opposed to all paramilitary groups, but warned that whoever removed the banner risked stirring up trouble.

A PSNI spokesman said: "Police arrested a man in his 60s on suspicion of theft following reports of the removal of a poster in Moygashel area on Friday, June 23. He has been released on bail pending further enquiries."

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