The PSNI police has insisted that unionist paramilitary flags are “historic” and break no laws -- but that a sign reading “F**k the DUP” constitutes a hate crime.
Chief executive of Mid and East Antrim council Anne Donaghy said that the PSNI advised her that UVF paramilitary flags were “historic and not illegal” in an email circulated to members this week.
The purple flag, which bears the letters UVF and includes an orange star, is often hoisted in loyalist areas and regularly appears on UVF-linked wall murals.
In the email Ms Donaghy said the “council has taken advice and as far as we can determine the flags shown in (the reports) are historic and not illegal,” she said.
Sinn Fein councillor James McKeown said his party was seeking an explanation.
“A UVF flag is a UVF flag, there is no misunderstanding about who this flag represents,” he said.
A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council insisted they had approval for the position. “Advice was taken from PSNI,” she said.
But there were accusations of double standards after a woman was questioned by the PSNI and could face a hate crime prosecution because she waved an anti-unionist banner at Belfast’s Pride parade reading “F**k the DUP”.
The PSNI investigation was prompted by a complaint from DUP politician Jim Wells, who claimed that the slogan constituted “incitement to hatred and potential public disorder”.
Ellie Evans, originally from England, confirmed that two PSNI detectives questioned her under caution on Monday. She said that in a later phone call she was told that prosecutors would decide whether she should be prosecuted for a hate crime or a breach of public order.
“I said to them: ‘Why?’” she said. “To say this placard and its message was a hate crime is insulting to all those many LGBT people in Northern Ireland who are affected by genuine hate crimes on a daily basis.”
She added: “How many people have the PSNI arrested here for the burning of effigies of nationalist politicians or flags of that tradition on loyalist bonfires? I just can’t believe they have referred this to the PPS. I just thought it would be a laugh.... They were like questions you would expect to be asked by a teacher at school over graffiti scrawled in a toilet or a cloakroom. The whole thing was weird.”