Villiers drawn into row over movement of RUC memorial

Memorials to RUC and PSNI officers killed in the line of duty, at Strand Road PSNI station in Londonderry, had been moved to an area shared with photocopiers
Memorials to RUC and PSNI officers killed in the line of duty, at Strand Road PSNI station in Londonderry, had been moved to an area shared with photocopiers

The Secretary of State has told the House of Commons that she will reflect on complaints about a memorial to murdered RUC officers being moved from a public area of a PSNI station to back offices.

Theresa Villiers was speaking after DUP MP Gregory Campbell used Northern Ireland Questions to raise the movement of an RUC memorial from a public inquiry room in Strand Road station in Londonderry to a third-floor photocopying area.

The issue has caused outrage among serving and retired officers and relatives of the murdered officers.

Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Mr Campbell asked Ms Villiers: “Will the Secretary of State do what she can to unite the community in support of the police against terror and would she agree with me that that job would be made much easier if senior police officers who this week took a decision to relocate memorials to murdered colleagues away from public facing positions in police stations into back offices...relocate that, reconsider that, and ensure that the campaign against terror gets support right across the community?”

Ms Villiers replied: “I will certainly reflect on the last point he made about location of police memorials...”

Last week District Commander Supt Mark McEwan issued a memo to officers which appeared to say the reason for moving the memorial was to have it away from public view.

“As the front enquiry office is still utilised by members of the public, the memorials have been moved to a new memorial area located outside the constable’s briefing room on the third floor,” he said.

UUP Policing Board member Ross Hussey MLA, a former RUC Reservist, had expressed serious concerns but has now been reassured.

“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,” he said yesterday.

The room where the granite memorials had been on public view is no longer used by the public, he said, but is now used as “an overflow” for people who attend for voluntary interviews.

“I believe the commander’s intentions were – and indeed are – good,” said Mr Hussey. The ultimate aim is to establish a police memorial area in the station in which many memorial items can be located, he added,

Almost 2,500 people have signed a petition at www.change.org calling for the RUC memorial to be returned to its original position.