A Coleraine councillor has hit out at the actions of PSNI officers, questioning if they were “deliberately trying to antagonise the loyalist/unionist community” or “deliberately trying to ramp up tensions”.
DUP Alderman George Duddy was speaking out about an incident in Kingsgate Street, Coleraine, on Tuesday evening.
He said a group had gone to put up a bannerette commemorating the Northern Ireland Centenary when they were approached by three PSNI officers. The officers asked if the group had the required paperwork from the Department for Infrastructure Roads division to put up the bannerette.
Mr Duddy said: “Given the current circumstances with regards to policing in loyalist/unionist areas at present, surely senior police officers should take cognisance of their officers out on the ground.
“It is not the concern of the PSNI who has the appropriate paperwork when people are attaching a bannerette to a lamp post. I had thought we had got past this after an incident in Killowen last year.
“One has to question the intentions of the PSNI. Are they deliberately trying to antagonise the loyalist/unionist community or are they deliberately trying to ramp up tensions and undo the hard work that had been done on the ground last week trying to diffuse a difficult situation?
“It is disgusting and not acceptable for the PSNI to conduct themselves in such a manner if they are trying to build confidence in the community.
“I would encourage anyone who is confronted by the PSNI in a similar manner to report the matter to the Ombudsman and if they require any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.”
Responding to the claims, Chief Inspector Rory Bradley said: “Across the year and across many communities in Northern Ireland, local people erect flags, banners and other symbols relating to cultural identity, political issues and support for particular views which may be contested by others in the community.
“In many cases such symbols will cause offence to one community, but may not be in themselves illegal. The flying of any flag or banner should be carried out with the consent of the person or organisation who owns the street furniture or property on which the item is flown or displayed.
“While the removal of such items is not the responsibility of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the PSNI is committed to working with communities and partners to build a safe and inclusive society.
“Where reports of banners or flags being erected are received, the PSNI will attend to ascertain proof of permission for erecting a banner or flag and gather evidence in the event that any offence is committed. Details are passed to the relevant land or property owner, who will decide on the appropriate course of action which may include the matter being reported for prosecution.
“Anyone with a complaint regarding police actions is encouraged to contact the office of the Police Ombudsman.”