Blair says Soldier F banners create chill factor in many areas

Alliance Policing Board member John Blair MLA has said the erection of banners in support of ‘Soldier F’ is creating a chill factor in many areas.

Mr Blair was speaking after a meeting between an Alliance delegation and senior PSNI officers. It follows the display of a number of such banners across Northern Ireland.

“Alliance has been critical of the appearance of Soldier F banners at various locations across Northern Ireland. 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.

“We believe all public space is shared space. While that does not mean neutral space, everyone should be able to free from intimidation and the marking out of territory. There needs to be a framework urgently put in place which sees all flags and banners supporting illegal actions and organisations prohibited, and the regulation of all other symbols.

“In the meantime, the PSNI and other public agencies have a duty to uphold the law. Today’s meeting was a frank exchange of views with the PSNI about the community concerns around these banners, as well as paramilitary flags.

“The police are left in a difficult and challenging position in managing what is otherwise a policy vacuum. While there is a responsibility on them to show leadership, many other public bodies also need to step up. Alliance will be pushing the Department of Infrastructure and others to be more proactive and keep their property free from divisive symbols. Collective failure and inaction risks having a significant negative impact on community confidence in policing.”