The row over a proliferation of banners in support of ‘Soldier F’ has intensified with one local council attempting to have them removed.
Banners have appeared in a large number of towns and villages across Northern Ireland since the PPS announced a former paratrooper would face a murder trial over the death of two men on Bloody Sunday.
On Monday night, Sinn Fein brought a motion to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council calling for the removal of what they branded the “divisive” and “offensive” symbols.
Councillors were split 19 for and 19 against the motion – but it was passed with a casting vote from the SDLP Mayor Mealla Campbell.
The motion stated: “In recognition of this council’s efforts to encourage the regeneration of our town centres and our villages and mindful of the need for both to be places where everyone can feel welcome and where investment and tourism are promoted, we call on those responsible for erecting divisive banners to remove them as a matter of urgency. This council will write to relevant agencies and the police service to urge them to remove such banners if those reponsible do not.”
Independent unionist councillor Paul Berry branded the motion “repugnant and disgusting”.
Welcoming the vote, Sinn Fein councillor Brona Haughey said the banners “cause community division”.
Meanwhile, Alliance Policing Board member John Blair has said the banners are creating a chill factor in many areas.
“They are hurtful to the families of Bloody Sunday victims and others, and are designed to do nothing except intimidate people, while representing the latest attempt by elements in our society to exercise coercive control.”
However, a number of military veterans’ campaigners have used social media to call for more banners to be erected.