A DUP councillor has challenged the SDLP to call for the removal of all paramilitary banners and memorials after concerns were raised about a poster erected by supporters of Miami Showband loyalist killer Wesley Somerville in Moygashel.
Dungannon SDLP representative, Cllr Denise Mullen, whose mother was shot 13 times by the same gun used in the Miami Showband attack, said the poster made her “very, very sad”.
Cllr Mullen’s mother, Olive, only survived the attack by fleeing across neighbouring fields, but her husband, Denis, was fatally wounded when a loyalist gang came to the family home near Moy in 1975.
In yesterday’s Irish News, SDLP MLA, Patsy McGlone, said he expected little response from police about the poster “given what they didn’t do in relation to the Billy Wright poster”.
Mr McGlone was referring to a poster erected in the Eastvale Avenue estate in Dungannon last month.
Yesterday, the Chief Constable, George Hamilton, admitted comments made by local PSNI that Inspector Keith Jamieson about the Billy Wright poster had caused offence.
Asked by the SDLP’s Nichola Mallon if police would issue a similar statement in future, he said: “I do accept that the initial statement issued by the local inspector, in good faith by him, but it has caused offence and probably with hindsight we would not have used the words that were used.”
He added: “He would acknowledge that there might have been a different form of words that could have been used that would not have caused offence and that hurt.”
Asked about the Wesley Somerville poster in Moygashel, Cllr Kim Ashton, DUP representative for the area, said: “I am on record and will continue not to support paramilitary activities or organisations regardless of what community they claim to represent.
“I find it remarkable that the SDLP have solely focused on the two loyalist posters in Dungannon and Moygashel considering the republican posters up in Dungannon 365 days a year.
“I would call on Pasty McGlone MLA to call for the removal of all banners and memorials that are across Northern Ireland attributed to all Paramilitaries including the IRA. Pasty McGlone has had ample opportunity to discuss the matter with local Senior PSNI officers but he has refused to do so. I think this just shows his interest lies with creating headlines rather than trying to work with the PSNI to resolve the issue.
“However I do commend the SDLP on the stand they have taken in regards to Victims Families and will look forward to receiving their support in Mid Ulster to object to the 1916 Irish Republican and Thomas Clarke Memorials that will cause such offence to people not just in Mid Ulster but right across Northern Ireland.”
Responding to Cllr Ashton’s comments, Mid Ulster SDLP MLA, Patsy McGlone, said: “My position to paramilitary violence in our society is, and always has been, unequivocal. The issue here is clear cut. It is the failure of the PSNI to act in response to complaints made about offensive banners which sought to incite hatred.
“This was further compounded by the attempt by a senior officer to portray this as a community rights issue. Despite Councillor Ashton’s claims, the SDLP is taking this issue forward through the Policing Board.
“That is the proper route for resolving this matter and should Cllr Ashton have any concerns about the police handling of any other offensive banners I would expect her to do the same.”