Hoey: why is PSNI seizing UVF but not IRA memorabilia?

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton was questioned at the NI Affairs Committee in Westminster
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton was questioned at the NI Affairs Committee in Westminster

Kate Hoey has challenged the chief constable as to why the PSNI is seizing UVF memorabilia – but not the IRA equivalent.

The Northern Ireland-born Labour MP for Vauxhall was quizzing George Hamilton at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee yesterday.

She asked what the definition of paramilitary memorabilia is and said there were “quite a number of houses” recently where badges, ties and 1912 UVF flags had been confiscated and were then displayed as paramilitary material and evidence of success by the new Fresh Start anti-paramilitary unit.

She asked if this material was forbidden under the 2000 Terrorist Act and pressed: “Why are we not raiding some of the IRA memorabilia places?”

Mr Hamilton responded that it has long been debated what memorabilia and flags constitute historical artefacts and what constitute support for a current day proscribed organisation.

When such material is seized, he said, it is normally in intelligence-led searches for firearms and information on intended targets, and can help bring charges of membership of a terror group.

“It is not a straightforward success story when we recover a 1912 UVF flag but often it will be in a broader context of other materials,” he said.

Mr Hamilton said the PSNI has been accused of taking “a softly softly approach” with paramilitaries and that it is “a healthy thing for the public to know” about UVF flag seizures because of concerns on social media about “the lack of the lack of proactivity around tackling paramilitarism”.

Ms Hoey added: “Well I look forward to the public display of some IRA memorabilia which I am sure you will find in the various museums and so on.”