A loyalist community leader has asked why debate on the display of Union Flags takes up so much media time compared to scrutiny of the threat from dissident republicans.
Jim Wilson from east Belfast was speaking in the wake of dissident republicans targeting a police officer’s car in Londonderry.
“The flag issue pales into insignificance when you look at people trying to murder people in this community,” he said. He said there was a purely negative coverage of loyalist communities.
“The cost of policing an entirely peaceful and lawful protest at Twaddell is constantly being promoted in the media, but the cost of trying to stop threats of murder by dissident republicans is not. Why is that? When a drug dealer is caught on the Falls Road, the PSNI label him a drug dealer. But when he is caught on the Shankill Road the PSNI label him a loyalist drug dealer. Why is that?
“I have heard from plenty of people along the border who have to drive past IRA memorials to people that killed their loved ones every day. But their concerns are never covered in the media,” he added.
Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw said the PSNI was “open to listening and discussing concerns” raised by communities and “will continue to engage with all communities to keep people safe”.
He added: “Police can supply figures for the cost of policing the Twaddell protest/ parade and associated security operation as this is a specific operation in a specific location. The cost of policing the dissident threat is not a specific operation, it is dealt with as part of everyday life within and throughout the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
“We have often been on record to say that the threat from dissident terrorist groups across Northern Ireland is regarded as severe and has been for some time. It is also a matter of public record that violent dissident republicans have on a number of occasions over the last 12 months sought to exploit the ongoing policing operation in connection with the Twaddell protest/parade for their own sinister and murderous intent.”