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PSNI chief sorry for Wright poster comments as new UVF banner appears

By Deborah McAleese

Published 05/08/2016

George Hamilton apologised over comments about a Billy Wright poster
George Hamilton apologised over comments about a Billy Wright poster

The PSNI’s Chief Constable has apologised for comments made by one of his inspectors about a controversial Billy Wright poster.

A row erupted last month when Inspector Keith Jamieson said the Dungannon poster — which praised the killing of three IRA men and a Catholic civilian 25 years ago — was offensive to some but not to others.

During a meeting of the Policing Board yesterday Chief Constable George Hamilton said he accepted that the inspector’s initial statement had “caused hurt and offence”.

He added that “in hindsight he probably would not have used the words used”.

The poster was erected in loyalist Eastvale Avenue area of Dungannon last month.

It read: ‘In proud memory of Brigadier Billy Wright’ and below it is printed the quote ‘I would look back and say Cappagh was probably my best’.

The Cappagh killings were carried out by the UVF on March 3, 1991 when a gang drove into the village and shot dead IRA members Dwayne O’Donnell (17), Malcolm Nugent (20) and John Quinn (23), along with civilian Thomas Armstrong (52).

In response to complaints about the poster, Inspector Jamieson said the PSNI “must attempt to achieve a balance between the rights of one community over another”.

Yesterday the Chief Constable said the Inspector “would acknowledge that maybe a different form of words wouldn’t have caused that hurt”.

He added: “We want to be sensitive to people. When we get it wrong we say so. Underlining all of this is a broader issue around display of posters, emblems and flags. It is a difficult situation we are dealing with routinely.”

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said that while the poster was “distasteful” and “offensive” it was not illegal.

He said complaints had been made that the poster amounted to incitement to hatred and glorifying terrorism.

“The poster would be viewed by me and many as distasteful, offensive and inappropriate, but we do have challenges with what we as a police service can do. We live in a democracy... The legal advice I got was that there was no contravention of the law as distasteful as that was,” he said.

The flag was removed on July 25 following discussions between police and members of the community, Mr Martin added.

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said he believed the law to deal with issues like flags, emblems and burning of election posters on Eleventh night bonfires is adequate if the will is there to act.

“The law is there, it can be used. The law is adequate. The difficulty is, there is a strong belief that there are certain things that are just acceptable,” he added.

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