Billy Wright banner - ‘no hate crime disclosed’

The banner glorifying LVF killer Billy Wright in Eastvale Avenue, Dungannon.

The banner glorifying LVF killer Billy Wright in Eastvale Avenue, Dungannon.

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Chief Constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, is to be quizzed about a banner glorifying the loyalist killer Billy Wright in Dungannon.

The issue of whether the erection of the banner constitutes a hate crime, has been in the headlines over recent weeks after Mid Ulster SDLP MLA, Patsy McGlone, reported it to police.

The poster, which appeared in the Eastvale Avenue hosuing estate, features a photo of the LVF founder, along with the words, ‘In proud memory of Brigadier Billy Wright”.

The banner includes a quote, ‘I would probably look back and say Cappagh was my best’.

IRA men, Dwayne O’Donnell, 17, Malcolm Nugent, 20, and John Quinn, 23, along with civilian Thomas Armstrong, died during a gun attack at Boyles’ Bar in Cappagh in 1991.

The poster has prompted criticism from politicians, relatives of the IRA men and victims’ group, Relatives for Justice.

A statement issued to the Irish News by Dungannon PSNI Inspector, Keith Jamieson, who said there was “no doubt” the banner would be perceived as offensive by some, but not others, was branded an “appalling admission” by the victims’ organisation.

Inspector Jamieson continued: “While we are sensitive to the feelings of victims’ families, the PSNI must attempt to achieve a balance between the rights of one community over another, and act within the law. We are working with the community in an attempt to resolve this matter, and we will continue to do so.”

Mark Thompson, Director of Relatives for Justice, which works with the families of the four Cappagh victims, said:

“To say there are competing rights in such a situation is as odious as the banner itself.

“This is an attempt by the PSNI to deliberately diminish the grief of these four families.

“To promote the notion that some will not find the poster insulting is to completely abdicate the understanding of sectarian hate crime, remove this matter from the realm of hate crime and to try and render the victims powerless under law.”

The latest comment from police on the issue saw Mid Ulster District Commander, Superintendent Mike Baird, state:

“This has been recorded as a hate incident, however, it is our assessment that no crime has been disclosed, therefore, it has not been recorded as a hate crime.”

Mid Ulster Sinn Fein Assembly Member, Linda Dillon, said she is to meet police over the banner, while SDLP Policing Board member Nichola Mallon has said she intends to question PSNI chief constable George Hamilton in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the Alliance Party have also said they will be seeking a meeting with the Chief Constable.

The party’s Justice Spokesperson, Trevor Lunn MLA, said: “There is nothing to balance in this case - murder is wrong, and we must all unite to reject the likes of this banner or similar memorials.

“It is also wrong to assume that only nationalists would get offended by it, as anyone who is opposed to terrorism will be affronted by it.”