The row over the removal of an RUC Memorial plaque from public view at Strand Road PSNI station rumbled on this week, both locally and in London.
MLA Ross Hussey, the UUP’s Policing Board representative visited the police station, while the DUP’s Gregory Campbell, MP, raised the issue with the Secretary of State, Teresa Villiers.
Mr Hussey, a former member of the RUC Reserve, has met with Superintendent McEwan, and said he was satisfied the issue had been badly handled, but that no offence was intended.
“I feel the pain of the families as I had the honour to serve with the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC and I share their view that this should not have happened in this way,” he said.
“Having visited the Police Station and having had the opportunity to see the situation for myself and speak to senior officers, I am confident that a genuine mistake has been made in this instance with no offence intended.
“The room where the granite memorials had been on public view is no longer a public area it is a room which is used for an overflow and used for voluntary attenders to be interviewed. Basically the memorials were in an unused room.”
He said the Commander’s aim was to establish a police memorial area inside the station, where all memorial items, including paintings, portraits, a clock and a beautifully crested lectern, can be located in one place.
“What is important now is that we go forward with the determination that the feelings of the families are uppermost in our thoughts and if they want the memorials returned to their original location, so be it,” he said, insisting that the families be included in the entire process and any subsequent rededication service.
“We must remember the fallen of the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC with pride as we must remember the fallen of the PSNI which incorporates the RUCGC. Their service and sacrifice cannot be whitewashed from history.
“I will be raising this matter at the Policing Board and seeking an assurance from the senior command team that a new agreed policy on memorials will be prepared and implemented as a matter of urgency.”
Meanwhile, raising the issue in Westminster of initiatives to bolster support in the community for the police in the war against terror, Mr Campbell said the task of involving the community would be much easier if senior officers reconsidered the relocation to back offices of memorials to fallen comrades.
Responding to Mr Campbell, Ms Villiers said: “I will certainly reflect on the point about the location of police memorials, but it is crucial to build support for the PSNI across the community. Support is at one of its highest ever levels and I welcome that fact”.