A large banner eulogising Portadown loyalist killer Billy Wright has been hung from a street lamp causing widespread revulsion.
The banner depicting Wright, who has been linked to several murders in Lurgan and Craigavon, is on a lamp close to a loyalist bonfire in Dungannon.
The controversial memorial sign at Eastvale Avenue, which has inflamed tensions in the local community, carries a picture of the notorious paramilitary leader along with the words: “In proud memory of Brigadier Billy Wright’ and a quotation attributed to him that goes: “I would look back and say Cappagh was probably my best”.
The large pyre in the adjoining estate is set to be burnt on Saturday night ahead of the traditional Orange march.
SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone, who has condemned the sign as an ‘outright sectarian hate crime’, has made a formal complaint to the police.
“It is highly despicable that anyone should brag about Billy Wright and his activities, specifically in relation to the sectarian murders in Cappagh”, he said. “This is a hate crime, and I am calling for it to be removed and anyone associated with printing and erecting it should be investigated for committing a hate crime.”
The Assembly member also called on right-thinking people in the community to condemn the sign and for anyone with influence to exert it and have the sign removed as soon as possible.
Wright, who was known as King Rat, is thought to have ordered or participated in around 20 killings, most of which were blatantly sectarian.
Recently Upper Bann MLA John O’Dowd raised the burning of election posters, flags and effigies on July bonfires in Upper Bann and elsewhere with the Justice minister on the floor of the Assembly.
Questioning Minster Sugden Mr O’ Dowd asked the Minister of Justice “after welcoming her to her post and wishing her well, whether she agrees, as we approach the marching season and the bonfire season, albeit acknowledging that a lot of work has been carried out in the PUL community to reduce tensions, particularly with bonfires, that it is still unacceptable to see posters, effigies and images being burned on bonfires .
Mr O’ Dowd continued: “A number of sites have become notorious, such as the Ballycraigy Road and the Dublin Road in Antrim. We have seen the continuing burning of posters and effigies in my constituency in Banbridge and Portadown. Does the Minister not agree that the PSNI should treat it more seriously and treat it as a hate crime?”
In response the Minister said: “Of course it is unacceptable; all incidents of hate crime are unacceptable, whether it be sectarianism or racism. The people responsible for that type of activity need to be held accountable for it. It is the police’s role to investigate that. All incidents of hate crime are unacceptable.
“If he has examples of specific ongoing incidents, I suggest that he directs those comments to the PSNI, even through the Policing Board. Again, it is an operational matter, which I find it difficult to comment on. Indeed, it would not be appropriate for me to do so. To reiterate: incidents of hate crime are unacceptable. I appreciate where you are coming from, so, in trying to deal with this particular issue, I would direct the Member to the PSNI.”
Speaking outside the Assembly Mr O’ Dowd said: “Any incidents of election posters belonging to myself or Catherine Seeley which end up on Bonfires this year will be reported to the PSNI as hate crimes. The burning of posters, flags and effigies is not harmless fun it is a hate crime and has no place in any culture.”