Row erupts over RAF billboard near Bloody Sunday site

The RAF Reserves recruiting poster at Foyle Road, Londonderry
The RAF Reserves recruiting poster at Foyle Road, Londonderry

The DUP has questioned SDLP objections to an RAF recruitment poster in Londonderry.

On Thursday the SDLP issued a statement in the name of Derry City Council candidate Emmet Doyle, objecting to an RAF Reserves recruitment poster in the Brandywell area - near the scene of the Bloody Sunday shootings of 13 civilians by the Army in 1972. Mr Doyle said: “A number of people have been in touch to say how disgusted they are, and how they find the poster deeply offensive, especially given the time of year in the lead-up to the anniversary of Bloody Sunday.”

He had been given assurances the poster would be taken down on Thursday, he said, although it was understood that locals had removed it on Thursday night.

“I hope such an occurrence never happens again,” he said. “Lessons must be learned that these sort of posters can cause a lot of hurt and distress in the local area.”

But DUP MLA Jonathan Bell responded that the RAF has “a proud, distinguished history of service” and argued that it recruits people from all parts of the United Kingdom “regardless of their political beliefs or religious persuasion”.

He added that the SDLP reaction suggested the party has “forsaken any semblance of commitment to a shared future and equality – let alone fair employment”.

The SDLP’s comments were, he added, “all the more repugnant in the context of the SDLP naming a children’s playground [in Newry] after an IRA terrorist who had the weapon used in the Kingsmills genocide of Protestant workmen”.

But Kate Nash, whose brother William Nash was killed on Bloody Sunday, said she was “incensed” by the poster outside her door, which she said was “very hurtful”.

She added that it was “offensive because it is recruiting for Britain, which was responsible for a lot of innocent deaths in the area that I lived in, it is offensive to have it up on the edge of this area”.

The Ministry of Defence apologised “for any offence that may have been caused as a result of the placement of this advert, this was certainly not our intention”.

“The MoD is an equal opportunity employer irrespective of cultural, ethnic or religious background and as such endeavours to inform the widest possible number of people of the careers open to prospective candidates.”