The decision to move an RUC memorial plaque at Strand Road PSNI Station has caused widespread anger and upset.
The plaque used to be on display close to the public entrance to the station, but has now been moved to a new memorial area located outside the constable’s briefing room on the third floor.
The plaque had been on display with a number of personal or private tributes, including a poppy wreath and photographs from officers’ families, and had been accessible to family and former colleagues wishing to mark an anniversary or leave a tribute.
According to UUP Alderman Mary Hamilton, the decision to move the memorial means bereaved families will now have to have apply for special permits and be escorted if they wish to view it or leave a tribute.
“It makes no sense to me to add to the grief felt by families of those RUC officers who died during The Troubles,” she said.
“To move this memorial without speaking to the families and without informing the Police Federation and trying to include them in the process has a deep feeling of hurt. At the very least it was utterly tactless.”
Party colleague, Ross Hussey MLA, a former RUC reservist and member of the Policing Board, said: “If these plaques are now being hidden from public view I will find it personally offensive because that would mean they are trying to sweep the service of the RUC and PSNI officers who gave their lives under the carpet,”.
The MLA said he had visited the station to investigate.
DUP MLA Gary Middleton said moving the plaque had led “to fresh pain for people already conscious of attempts to rewrite history”.
“The fact that these memorials have been removed from the station without relatives being consulted caused a great deal of hurt amongst serving and former officers and the families of those murdered,” he said.
Mr Middleton said DUP MP Gregory Campbell had contacted senior officers to express concern: “We now understand that contact has been made with some relatives of those murdered, but the question remains why this basic and fundamental courtesy was not followed initially. It should not have required the intervention from elected representatives for this to occur.”
He said the original site of the plaque had been dedicated with a religious service, making the removal even more insensitive.
Superintendent Mark McEwan said he “wholeheartedly apologised” for any distress caused by the removal of the memorial.
“I understand the repositioning of these memorials may have offended some people, however it was never my intention to cause any distress or hurt and I wholeheartedly apologise for any distress this may have caused.
“My intention in creating this memorial area was to have an appropriate place which would afford officers and staff additional privacy to remember our RUC and PSNI colleagues who have sadly lost their lives.”