TUV queries PSNI’s Soldier F banner investigations

A Soldier Support Banner on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.
A Soldier Support Banner on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.

TUV leader Jim Allister says it is “bizarre” that police may be spending resources looking into Soldier F banners, while apparently failing to probe the many illegal terror monuments around the country.

A source told the News Letter police are questioning people in Tandragee, Markethill, Portadown and the north coast, to find out who erected Soldier F banners there.

He also asked if, by comparison, police had any active investigations into terrorist monuments, roads signs or flags along the border, in south Armagh or around Dunganon.

The PSNI said: “Where police receive reports of banners or flags being erected, we will ascertain proof of permission for erecting a banner and gather evidence in the event that any offence is committed. We’ll then pass details to the relevant land or property owner who will decide on the appropriate course of action which may include the matter being reported for prosecution.”

Mr Allister said: “I find it bizarre that the PSNI should be making inquires of this nature given the large number of illegal monuments to terrorists throughout Northern Ireland which are erected without planning permission and cause huge hurt to the victims of terrorists,” he said.

The current response from the PSNI contrasts with what it told the News Letter in 2016, when it was asked about its stance on terrorist murals.

At the time it said: “Over years of experience the PSNI’s position has moved to one where we will only act to remove a flag/mural/emblem in extreme circumstances such as, for example, where there is a risk to life or where there is a substantial and immediate risk of disorder and police action to remove the item would proportionately mitigate the risk.

“We accept that the display of certain items may be considered offensive, however that in itself is not sufficient for police to effect removal.”

The PSNI clarified that it derives powers to investigate the banners under The Roads (NI) Order 1993.

It said that Article 73 says that anyone erecting a wire or similar across a road without the consent of the Department of Infrastructure is guilty of an offence.

Similarly, Art 87 said that anyone who affixes a sign or advert on a street or other structure on a road is guilty of an offence.

The police added that it is “not currently carrying out any criminal investigations into the flying of flags or banners or other items on street furniture”.