Burning of Parachute Regiment flags in Derry treated as hate incident – PSNI

Union flags and an effigy of Soldier F also burned on bonfire in Bogside

The main bonfire burns in the Bogside area of Londonderry in Northern Ireland, to mark the Catholic Feast of the Assumption. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The main bonfire burns in the Bogside area of Londonderry in Northern Ireland, to mark the Catholic Feast of the Assumption. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The burning of Parachute Regiment flags and Soldier F placards on a bonfire in Derry’s Bogside being treated as a hate incident, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has said.

Other material, including Union flags and an effigy of Soldier F, were also burnt on the bonfire, which was set alight late on Thursday night.

Earlier, thousands of people attended a separate community festival and fireworks display in the Bogside.

A former member of the regiment, Soldier F is facing two charges of murder and four charges of attempted murder in connection with Bloody Sunday in Derry’s Bogside in January 1972, when 13 civilians were shot dead by the British army regiment. A 14th died later.

The DUP said it had complained about the material and asked for it to be removed.

A number of reports were received regarding “offensive material on the bonfire in the Bogside area of the city,” the PSNI said.

“As a police service we recognise the hurt and frustration that this can cause. The display of this material has been perceived as offensive and distasteful.

“Where crimes have been committed and suspects identified they will be brought before the courts.”

There has been tension in the Bogside since last weekend, when members of the Clyde Valley Flute band from Larne, Co Antrim, took part in the Apprentice Boys’ annual Relief of Derry parade wearing the Parachute Regiment emblem and the letter F on the sleeves of their uniforms. A police investigation has been launched.

Speaking on BBC Radio Foyle, DUP MLA Gary Middleton said that people were “very hurt and annoyed that their property once again this year has been stolen and placed onto bonfires.

“We need to get to a point where we’re not burning flags, banners, effigies belonging to one side or another within these communities. It is offensive, it is hurtful, and we need to get away from that.

“There’s no doubt there’s an element of tit for tat, we’ve seen that for many years, but that doesn’t justify it,” he said.

SDLP councillor Brian Tierney, who leads the council’s bonfire committee, said that it was important now to “step back”.

“We have to let what’s happened in the last six or seven days settle down and get back around the table, not only regarding the bonfire issue but also regarding the parading issue,” he said.