Belfast Telegraph

MP would know about offensive signs given office terrorist honour, says DUP over calls to remove Soldier F banner

Chris Hazzard
Chris Hazzard
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP has said a Sinn Fein MP would know a "great deal" about offensive signs given his office is in a building named after two IRA men.

Chris Hazzard called on leaders of civic and political unionism to "clearly state their opposition" and call for the removal of banners erected in support of Soldier F who is to be prosecuted for murder and attempted murder at Bloody Sunday.

The PSNI said the erection of the banners did not necessarily constitute a crime unless the owner of the property it was attached to did not consent. 

The Department for Infrastructure, however, said it did not consent to the banners being tied its lampposts.

South Down MP Hazzard spoke out after the appearance of a banner in Annalong saying it was a clear attempt at "intimidation".

“Annalong is a quiet coastal community, home to people from all backgrounds and at this time as we approach the summer holidays, it attracts visitors from all over," he said.

“The erection of this illegal banner is both provocative and offensive and is designed to cause hurt.

“The tacit support for these banners voiced by the DUP is adding to their proliferation across the north.

“Those in positions of leadership in both political and civic unionism need to come out clearly and state their opposition to this banner and other similar ones right across the north and call for their removal.”

DUP Councillor Glyn Hanna hit back saying the erection of 'Soldier F' banners and flags was a "reflection of the frustration and anger amongst many in the community at the imbalance in investigations and the disproportionate focus on those who served on behalf of the state".

He continued: "Chris Hazzard would know a great deal about provocative and offensive signs which are designed to cause hurt. There is one erected above the door of his constituency office eulogising two Provisional IRA terrorists, including one who was killed whilst attempting to murder police officers.

"There has also been a sustained campaign of hatred waged against the memorial to members of the Parachute Regiment murdered by the Provisional IRA at Narrow Water. Will Mr Hazzard be clear in his condemnation, not only of those who attack that memorial, but of the terrorists who set out to engage in cold-blooded murder?”

Chris Hazzard's constituency office is in a building named after Peter McNulty and Paul Magorrian.

McNulty (47) was killed in a premature bomb explosion during an attack on Castlewellan RUC base on January 26, 1972, while Magorrian (21) was shot dead by the Army in Castlewellan on August 14, 1974.

Mr Hazzard said it was "absolutely fitting" both the office and the local Sinn Fein branch were named after them.

Sinn Fein has been asked for a comment.

Assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton 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 these symbols will cause offence to one community but may not be in themselves illegal. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton

"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 we are committed to working with communities and partners to build a safe and inclusive society."

ACC Hamilton said that when the PSNI receives reports of banners or flags being erected, officers will attend to ascertain proof of permission for erecting a banner and gather evidence in the event any offence is committed. This will then be passed on 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.

"Specifically in the case of flags and banners in support of the Parachute Regiment it is the understanding of the PSNI, in consultation with the prosecution agencies, that these banners and flags of themselves do not constitute a criminal offence, however the erection of these banners or flags without permission may constitute an offence if the owners wish to pursue a prosecution," he added.

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Mark Hamilton

"Police will act to support the removal of banners by those who have responsibility for a structure on which the item is displayed but we will only consider removing such items ourselves where there is an imminent and immediate likelihood of a breach of the peace.

"The most effective solution to this issues is community resolution with engagement between local communities working with local agencies and resulting in local decision-making.”

"We will continue to work with communities and partners to find lasting solutions however police action on its own is not sufficient."

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