Pressure mounts on PSNI over RUC memorial's new '˜photocopier' site
Pressure is mounting on a PSNI commander in Londonderry to replace a memorial to police officers killed in the line of duty, which has been moved to a 3rd floor photocopying room.
Relatives of murdered RUC officers are among those who have signed a petition calling for the plaques to be reinstated close to the Strand Road station’s enquiry office.
The son of an RUC reservist shot dead in the city in 1983 said he was outraged that the memorial - containing the name of his father and 40 others - had been removed “to appease republicans”.
Constable John Olphert died in his wife’s arms at their Nelson Drive shop as his IRA killers made their escape.
Signing the petition at Change.org on Monday, his son Mark Olphert said the removal of the memorial without consultation by Superintendent Mark McEwan was “sickening”.
The News Letter revealed on Saturday that the action was taken due to the plaques being visible to the public from their original ground floor position.
In response to the initial criticism of his decision, Supt McEwan said: “It was never my intention to cause any distress or hurt and I wholeheartedly apologise for any distress this may have caused.”
Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said the superintendent’s actions were regrettable.
“At the very least, there ought to have been proper consultation with the relatives and former colleagues of murdered colleagues honoured on the plaques,” Mr Lindsay said.
A DUP delegation including Gregory Campbell MP is to meet the police commander on Friday.
On Monday, DUP MLA Gary Middleton said the removal of the plaques had “caused a great deal of offence to families, other police officers and to the wider public” - and invited the families directly affected to contact the party’s constituency office on 02871 346271.
Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey was originally reassured by the PSNI that the new site was appropriate for the memorials, but fresh photographs taken from another angle have changed his mind.
“From these new photos it just looks as though they have been dumped in the corner,” he said.
Mr Hussey, himself a former police reservist, added: “If it was moved simply because it was on public view that cannot and will not be justified.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said he would be raising the matter with both the chief constable and the justice minister.
“One cannot help wondering if this tribute was removed because of the danger of offending those who continue to justify and defend the IRA’s wicked campaign,” he said.
By Monday night more than 1,000 people had signed the online petition.
• In an internal memo to PSNI officers at Strand Road in recent days, Supt McEwan said: “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 3rd floor.”
He said: “The intention in creating this dedicated new area, which is adjacent to the main operational briefing room, was to have an appropriate quiet place which would afford officers and staff additional privacy to remember and honour our RUC and PSNI colleagues who have sadly lost their lives. The memorial plaques had previously been displayed in the former enquiry office but this room is now a waiting area for people attending for interview and I felt the newly created Police Memorial Area was more suitable as it will also house a number of portraits, photographs and a lectern all kindly donated by the families of police officers”.
“A Rededication Service will be confirmed in the coming weeks, once the works have all been completed. At which time family members, religious leaders from across the city and local public representatives will be invited to attend.”