Clear stance on posters needed

Posted By: July 22, 2016

“The Irish News is quite right to challenge the “ skewed thinking” of the PSNI in this Editorial, below. Indeed, it is far worse than skewed  thinking when the police say Catholics must accept Protestant glorification of the murder of Catholics in the interest of “ balance and mutual rights.” That is a truly disturbing double standard for police to have.The PSNI must formally and officially repudiate it.”

— Fr. Sean Mc Manus. President, Irish National Caucus

Irish News (Belfast). Editorial. Thursday, July 21, 2016

There is no doubt that when it comes to dealing with the contentious issues surrounding flags, emblems, and parades, the PSNI is very much caught in the middle.

They face criticism depending on the particular stance they take, however, the overriding principle must be doing what is right and upholding the law, regardless of outside pressure.

That said, politicians and the public are entitled to hold the police to account and the PSNI must be prepared to explain its decisions.

In recent weeks the appearance of a banner glorifying loyalist paramilitary leader Billy Wright and his murderous attack on four men, three of them IRA members, has caused considerable disquiet.

The poster, placed on a lamppost in Dungannon, carried a picture of the sectarian killer and included the quote: “I would look back and say Cappagh was probably our best.’’

This is a reference to a gun attack on Boyle’s Bar in Cappagh Co Tyrone in March 1991 during which republicans Dwayne O’Donnell (17), Malcolm Nugent (20) and John Quinn (23) were killed along with civilian Thomas Armstrong (52).

Mr. O’Donnell’s mother, Briege O’Donnell, believes the wording is offensive and called on the police to remove the banner, saying it is a hate crime.

A police inspector did at least provide a response but his words have served to deepen the controversy over this issue.

Inspector Keith Jamieson said the banner will be offensive to some people but not others and the PSNI “must attempt to achieve a balance between the rights of one community over another.’’

This is an example of skewed thinking which rather than clarifying the PSNI’s position on offensive displays has managed to blur the lines even more.

It will also be exploited by those determined to cause maximum offence by displaying repugnant and hate-filled material.

The Billy Wright banner has been damaged and replaced but the PSNI needs to make clear what its stance is on posters glorifying murder.