Irish Republican News · October 6, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: ‘Repulsive’ threat to Catholic graves
‘Repulsive’ threat to Catholic graves

Unionists have threatened to urinate on the graves of Catholics unless the bodies are disinterred and removed from Carnmoney cemetery in County Antrim.

The threat came as Catholic worshippers were forced to run a gauntlet of sectarian abuse as they attended an annual blessing-of-the-graves ceremony at the multifaith graveyard.

Dozens of unionists, many with their faces covered by scarves, gathered close to the cemetery in Newtownabbey on the outskirts of north Belfast as hundreds of Catholics gathered to hold the Cemetery Sunday service

Grieving relatives were forced to miss the start of the service as unionists blockaded the road.

Fr Dan Whyte, who led the prayer service, confirmed that Catholics attending the cemetery had been abused as they prayed for their dead relatives.

In 2003, Fr Whyte was the victim of a loyalist death threat after he condemned a unionist campaign of intimidation against a Catholic church. A similar blockade of the cemetery resulted in serious rioting.

“People praying at the O’Neill Road end had to endure a sectarian verbal assault, which is bad enough in ordinary circumstances.

“But when you are trying to say your prayers, it’s unacceptable and beyond anybody’s pale.”

Unionists have connected the blessing ceremony and the previous forced re-routing Orange Order’s Whiterock Parade.

26-County Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, described the urination threat as an example of “repulsive” sectarianism.

Fr Whyte said he did believe unionist paramilitary leaders were involved in the intimidation.

“It’s the cannon fodder we saw on the streets a couple of weeks ago -- youths and women who have nothing better to do, people who have lost their way.”

Fr Whyte postponed the Cemetery Sunday service last month after unionists rioted following the Orange Order’s Whiterock parade of September 10. The parade had been rerouted from a predominantly nationalist area of west Belfast’s Springfield Road.

“I was fairly relaxed in the run-up to this and, as a gesture, I postponed our celebration on the weekend of September 18. I didn’t want to be calling out large numbers of people and, in my innocence, I thought that sort of gesture would be returned,” he said. Fr Whyte added: “I think that the police have to take a look at this and come up with a solution which guarantees people safety as they try to say their prayers.

“God save us, it’s not asking much to pray for our loved ones.”

Sinn Féin Newtownabbey borough councillor Briege Meehan also condemned the protest.

“Once again, the Catholic community in Newtownabbey has been subjected to naked sectarian hatred and bigotry in its most vile form as they took part in devotion to their deceased loved ones in a dignified, peaceful and non-triumphalist manner,” she said.

PAISLEY DEPLORES THREATS

DUP leader Ian Paisley has said he deplored the threats and said those responsible had no respect for the living or the dead.

“They have no respect for the bodies of those in the tomb, no respect for the people who were weeping and were plunged into sorrow for the passing of their loved ones, and no condemnation could be strong enough,” he said.

Mr Paisley was speaking as he joined Northern Secretary Peter Hain in visiting a Catholic school in his North Antrim constituency, which was subjected to a loyalist sectarian attack during the summer.

The unusual gesture at St Louis Primary School followed considerable nationalist pressure for Mr Paisley to condemn sectarian violence by his constituents.

Mr Paisley, after being greeted by school principal Liam Corey, said those who perpetrated such attacks must be isolated. “I have no sympathy with them whatsoever, and the vast majority of people in Ballymena would have no sympathy with them.

“What we have to do now is to see that these people are isolated and that they know that all right-thinking sections of the community are opposed to what they are doing,” he said.

Mr Hain said the Carnmoney graveyard threats were “just an awful, almost medieval, throwback to a past of violence and bigotry. With Dr Paisley I condemn it utterly and say that people must start respecting each other.

“I ask, too, that the people who did this just understand the image that it projects, not only to the rest of the community, but to the rest of the world who look on it with amazement and horror”.

* A gang of unionists used golf clubs to attack two Catholic men in Belfast at the weekend.

North Belfast man Conor McKee has been left with two black eyes and cuts and bruises around his body.

“I was lying on the pavement being beaten around the head with golf clubs,” he said.

Mr McKee said he had been called a “Fenian bastard” throughout the assault.

“I was called all the names of the day while I was lying on the ground. I am lucky to be alive. I am certain that, if I had been attacked later at night rather than at 6pm, I would have been taken home in a body bag.”

© 2005 Irish Republican News