Banners erected in support of soldiers ‘is a symptom of very legitimate concerns’

Banner erected in Markethill in support of 'Soldier F'
Banner erected in Markethill in support of 'Soldier F'

Condemnations and support follow the erects of more banners in several Co Armagh and Co Down towns in support of soldiers and ‘Soldier F’.

Banners were erected in Tandragee, Markethill and Banbridge in support of ‘Soldier F’ while a banner stating: “Loughgall supports our troops’ also appeared.

It is understood the banner in Banbridge was taken down after a few hours.

Sinn Fein Cllr Brona Haughey said Markethill residents had been in touch with her over the weekend about the most recent Soldier F banner having been placed on the Main street.

“These banners do nothing only intimidate, raise tensions and insult the families of those injured and killed at the hands of the British Army,” she said.

Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd called on authorities to remove the banners which he said ‘are designed to cause hurt to the victims of Bloody Sunday and cause community division’.

However Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie said the issue of flying flags in support of ‘Soldier F’ is a ‘symptom of legitimate concerns about the imbalance in our approach to dealing with the past’.

Mr O’Dowd said: “These banners, proclaiming support for a murder suspect of innocent civilians on the streets of Derry, is not appropriate.

“The victims of Bloody Sunday deserve the truth just as much as any victim of the conflict. The rate at which these banners are appearing is a reflection of the failure of authorities to act.

“The silence of the PSNI, Road Service and political unionism is deafening. These banners should be removed immediately.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Mr Beattie said: “We live in a society which cherishes the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty. If people wish to support the accused during the trial that is their right and assuming Soldier F’s guilt is both wrong and undermines faith in the integrity and impartiality of the justice system.”

“This issue of the flying of flags and banners in support of Soldier F is a symptom of very legitimate concerns about the imbalance in our approach to dealing with the past.

“The Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) – supported by the DUP and Sinn Fein - intends to reinvestigate all killings by the military yet will not investigate all killings of the military. Combined with the On The Run Scheme and Pardons for terrorists there is a sense that investigations and prosecutions are tilted heavily towards servants of the state and appear to largely overlook the actions of terrorists who were responsible for the vast majority of murders during the troubles.”