Caution urged over police action to remove dissident threat signage

Dissident republican sign erected in the Creggan area of Londonderry
Dissident republican sign erected in the Creggan area of Londonderry

The way to remove threatening signage erected by dissident republicans in Londonderry is through community engagement, a DUP MLA has said.

Foyle representative Gary Middleton believes any pro-active policing approach will be portrayed as “heavy-handed” and then exploited by those seeking to exert influence over local citizens.

Violence was never acceptable and nothing good has come out of it

Gary Middleton MLA

Pressure has been mounting on the PSNI and other statutory agencies to act after a number of signs appeared in the Creggan area of the city – warning residents not to cooperate with police in any way.

Some of the signs have been placed close to a primary school, with a number of others being attached to lampposts. One states: ‘Informers will be shot. IRA’ while another says, ‘RUC informers; they will forget about you, WE won’t. IRA’.

A large poster erected by dissident group Saoradh, with imagery of republicans past and present, states: ‘Salute the men and women of violence’.

Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead in the area in April this year while observing rioting orchestrated by dissident republicans.

Following her BBC NI news report on the threatening signage on Monday, reporter Emma Vardy tweeted: “Hard to believe this is a part of the UK in 2019. IRA threats outside a school & no one will take them down.”

However, Gary Middleton has urged caution against their forced removal and the inevitable confrontation or disorder that would create.

“I strongly believe that the signage doesn’t represent the majority of the community, but I think it’s important that people do things in a way that doesn’t escalate tensions, and that it’s seen to have a buy-in from the community,” he said yesterday.

“In the Creggan, I think there’s a clear majority of people who do not want that on their doorstep, particularly outside of schools and religious buildings. People are just fed up with it.

“Speaking to the PSNI as recently as today, they have given their backing to supporting whatever agency or whatever community group wants to take them down.

“The issue is clear within dissident republicanism...there is a section of the community that they very much control. We’ve seen that with the murder of Lyra McKee, and the violence that time.

“So any steps that are going to be taken, people have to be mindful that what they don’t want to do is give these organisations any oxygen. They could then use that as propaganda to breathe life into their campaign.”

Mr Middleton said that although there is “a lot of good work being done in the area,” the widespread “glorification” of Troubles-era terrorism is an on-going problem.

“The younger generation coming forward, on a weekly basis, hears of terrorists being glorified and about the great things that were done during that time,” he said.

“The younger generation are saying, ‘if it was acceptable 20 or 30 years ago why is it not acceptable now?’ Any right-minded person should be saying that, whatever violence happened in the past, it was never acceptable and nothing good has come out of it – regardless of what background you are from.”

Meanwhile, Mark H Durkan has said we must remove “violent and hateful imagery” from our streets if society is to move on from our violent past.

Commenting on the latest dissident republican signage in the Creggan area of Londonderry, the SDLP MLA said: “It is important to note that efforts have been made to remove these items by those within the community, particularly following the murder of a young journalist on our streets.

“The people of Creggan and the wider Derry area have shown strength, reiterated their solid commitment to peace and condemned an organisation whose efforts serve to destroy peace and divide our communities.”

He added: “There is no place for any poster, banner or graffiti which threatens peace in our society – we have a duty to protect our hard-fought peace at all costs.”