Dedicated patrols to protect churches

Published Wednesday, 06 February 2013
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Dedicated police patrols have been introduced at Catholic churches across Co Antrim in response to a spate of recent attacks.

Dedicated patrols to protect churches
St Mary''s Star of the Sea on the Shore Road in Newtownabbey. (© Presseye)

Suspicious devices have been left at churches in Newtownabbey and Ballyclare in recent weeks, while another in Whitehead was targeted by arsonists.

Police said investigations are at an early stage but a sectarian motive has not been ruled out.

They revealed they are putting "considerable resources" into finding out who is behind the crimes and preventing further attacks.

"Dedicated targeted patrols have been implemented throughout the district and crime prevention advice given as appropriate. A number of forensic exhibits have been seized from the respective scenes and are currently under examination," explained a PSNI spokesperson.

Oliver McMullan, Sinn Féin MLA for East Antrim, said tensions are very high in the area.

"People are scared of saying anything at the minute.

"East Antrim seems to be getting the brunt of all of this. All of these chapels that are getting attacked are in east Antrim. There's an orchestrated campaign by unionist paramilitaries to do this," he claimed.

"I will call on Matt Baggott to prove to me that his robust response to all of this is actually working. I will welcome what's happened, that they have said they put on patrols, but it falls far short of a robust challenge."

Two viable pipe bombs were left at the Sacred Heart Church on the Doagh Road in Ballyclare on Friday, forcing the building and nearby homes to be evacuated.

On Saturday, a hoax security alert at St Mary's Star of the Sea in Greencastle forced Mass to be moved to another church at the last minute.

Father Anthony Alexander told UTV, "It's sad - it's very, very sad that people do that sort of thing. I don't know what they're trying to prove."

PUP spokesman Phil Hamilton condemned those carrying out the attacks, and also slammed "irresponsible comments" for stoking tensions.

"The police are saying that they're keeping an open opinion on exactly what's happening and my message to Sinn Féin is quite simple," he said.

"Wait until the facts become available. What's happened is irresponsible comments by Sinn Féin aren't helping community relations.

"Let's deal with the facts, not the fiction.

Police are also investigating the cause of a suspicious fire at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Whitehead, which broke out in the boiler room in the early hours of 23 December.

Officers said they are working closely with local clergy to find those responsible, however no arrests have yet been made.

"The investigations are at an early stage and all lines of inquiry remain open at this time," the PSNI spokesperson continued.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
26 Comments
alan in belfast wrote (532 days ago):
will the police protect the protestant churches and orange halls ie glenavy,crumlin,whitewell.newtownards road,clifton street,and so on and so on ??????????
martin in belfast wrote (532 days ago):
what about this, what about that, its no wonder the rest of the world laugh at the people from here. What about the police not having to waste millions on policing marches and protests, maybe then they could dedicate some resources to protecting orange halls, or better yet, hold the protests outside the orange hall, that way you can keep them safe.
doire abu in doire wrote (532 days ago):
lol 'whaddaboutery' and 'howcomery', how about 'justaccepterittery' and 'liveandletlivery'??!! when i read the headline i thought they were talking about vigilante groups! maybe that's an answer, how about a green batman and an orange spiderman? they would soon put a stop to all the vandalism, thuggery and anti social behaviour and maybe, just maybe, put an end to all the whaddaboutery and howcomery... (although no doubt there would be fights over who was the best sectarian super hero...)
Doug in Belfast wrote (532 days ago):
It's not complicated. These " special " patrols are being institued because we are talking about " suspect devices " here. This is a whole level above fires and graffiti. Sadly Catholic Cahpels, Protestant Chruches, GAA Clubs and Orange Halls have been attacked for years here from everyone by arsonists to moron kids with spray paint. I don't mean to denigrate the importance of the other issues, but arson and graffitti and vandalism can be committed by any idiot with time to spare. These have not resulted in special patrols for either side. But we're back to talking about BOMB SCARES here folks. That's a whole other sinister level and I suspect had suspect packages been found over several days at several lodges in relatively close proximity - the same reaction would be forthcoming. I'd be more worried about the fact that we're back on regular bomb scares than I would about crying bias.
S.B. in Belfast wrote (533 days ago):
Some of the bitterness and rage on this thread BECAUSE the police are actually trying to protect these churches is totally pathetic. The rabid bigotry and brutal sectarianism jumps out at you from many of these comments and says more about the posters. You know deep down that they DON'T really condemn the attacks and are more angry that that police are attempting to protect the chapels. I don't think there is any hope for this place anymore and we face a horrible, dangerous situation in the coming months. It appears that certain elements within Unionism and Loyalism are itching for confrontation and trouble during the marching season. I sincerely hope that doesn't happen as there are young hotheads on the Catholic side who will certainly react to this and there will be no winners; only losers on all sides.
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