Storm as banners depicting IRA attacks put up in Belfast mixed areas - police have no plans to remove them
Police will only remove banners depicting IRA attacks and placed on lampposts in two mixed housing areas of Belfast "if there is a substantial risk to public safety".
Images of the Shankill Road bombing, Bloody Friday and the Mountainview Tavern bombing were among those to appear in Cantrell Close and Global Crescent, near Ravenhill Avenue, all featuring the slogan '#Stand Up Against Sectarianism', which had been used by Sinn Fein during its election campaign last year.
- Bitter irony that posters have succeeded in doing what Provos couldn’t do: divide families who lost loved ones in atrocities
- We have nothing to say - residents remain reluctant to voice views
But John McLean, chief executive of Radius Housing, which manages the residential area, said the imagery was not appropriate for a shared housing space and called for them to be "removed immediately".
Chief Inspector David Moore said police were aware of the banners and had been speaking to Radius Housing representatives. "We fully understand the flying of flags and banners can cause frustration in some communities," he commented.
"It is our experience that such issues are most successfully resolved through engagement and collaborative working between local communities and their representatives, and police are always willing to be a partner in such arrangements."
Victims campaigner Alan McBride of Wave Trauma Centre, who lost his wife and father-in-law in the Shankill bomb, described the banners as "very disappointing" and a way of "scoring points".
"It's the same thing every year. This is grotesque and completely selective," he said.
"I'm sure there is no reference to Greysteel which happened the week after the Shankill bomb and was equally appalling.
"It reminds me of the Northern Ireland I really don't want any part of. We have to remember these events, but it has to be done respectfully."
Gina Murray, who lost her daughter in the Shankill bombing, supported the banners and said there was no reason for atrocities carried out by loyalists to be placed alongside them.
She said she received a copy of the banner before it was erected around the shared housing estate. "It serves as a reminder of what happened in this country," she added.
Jamie Bryson, speaking on behalf of the East Belfast Community Initiative which has supported those who erected the banners, said: "These banners depict factual images from the conflict.
"Given the one-sided nature of 'legacy' and the vast amount of resources and attention focused on nationalist victims, it was felt pertinent to remind Sinn Fein of their support for one of the most sectarian terror gangs the world has ever known.
"Many victims have different viewpoints on this issue, hence why the factual depictions of the IRA terror campaign did not presume to put victims' names on the banners, instead focusing solely on the widely circulated images which show the sectarian campaign of the IRA up for what it is.
"It cannot be okay for republican victims' groups to erect banners and hold marches highlighting their victims, yet chastise the unionist community for the same."
Sinn Fein South Belfast MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir has requested an urgent meeting of statutory agencies to respond to what he called "ongoing attempts by loyalists to use flags and banners to intimidate and harass Catholic and nationalist residents of the constituency".
South Belfast SDLP MLA, Claire Hanna, also called the banners "appalling, sectarian and unjustifiable".
She continued: "They're designed to achieve nothing more than stirring up tension and intimidating residents.
"Victims of any background deserve more than being used as pawns for one set of paramilitary apologists to score points off another.
"This reinforces the need for proper legislation on flying political flags and emblem - the current hotchpotch of self regulation and 'protocols' imposed with no resident consultation is meaningless.
"No-one has the right to impose their malign political views and political stunts on everyone in a neighbourhood."
Alliance councillor Michael Long called for the banners to be removed immediately. He added: "The terrorism campaign carried out by the IRA was disgusting. But what is also disgusting is using the deaths of innocent people as a point-scoring exercise."