A banner showing support for an ex-soldier facing prosecution for the murder of two people on Bloody Sunday “should not offend anyone”, a DUP councillor has said.
It comes after the Public Prosecution Service this month charged a man known only as ‘Soldier F’ for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney, who were killed in the Bogside area of Londonderry on January 30, 1972.
In the wake of the decision, a number of Parachute Regiment flags have appeared in the predominantly loyalist Co Antrim towns of Larne and Carrickfergus.
And in recent days, a banner bearing the words ‘Carrickfergus stands with Soldier F’ was erected near the town’s historic castle.
Some have hit out at the appearance of the banner, including Alliance Party council candidate and former RAF member, Noel Williams.
He told the News Letter: “As an ex-armed forces man, I find the use of the regimental insignia in this way to be totally unacceptable.
“It is being used to raise tensions and should be removed, as there is no doubt that is hurtful to the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday.
“In terms of the case of Soldier F, my view is that is an ongoing case and we must let the law take its course.”
However, DUP group leader on Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Gregg McKeen defended the banner and said it “is not hurting anyone”.
He told the News Letter: “People feel aggrieved that the PPS has decided to charge this soldier and want to show their support. They are entitled to do that and I see no problem with that.
“It is not doing anyone any harm or victimising anyone. It is a banner showing support for something that people believe in strongly.
“No one should be offended by this and I don’t see it as contentious.”
Meanwhile, a former paratrooper is returning his medal for service in Northern Ireland in “disgust” over the prosecution of Soldier F.
Jim Kenyon told the Hereford Times that he would be sending his service medals to the prime minister and 22 white feathers to the cabinet in protest at the decision.
He will also be sending a letter criticising the treatment of military veterans.