Glengormley terror after loyalists attack Irish flags
There were brief but intense clashes north of Belfast last weekend when loyalists invaded a nationalist area to tear down Irish flags and symbols and then left a bomb outside a Catholic church.
A gang of over hundred loyalists blocked a road while removing Irish tricolour and starry plough flags in the small County Antrim town.
The violence broke out shortly after a nearby flag protest had ended without incident on Friday night.
In recent years many nationalists have moved into the mainly unionist town, leading to rising tensions around flags, Orange Order arches and loyalist parades.
With the district’s main Twelfth of July parade due to take place in Glengormley this year, there are fears of further violence.
Friday night’s trouble broke out at around 8.30pm as a group of men blocked roads while removing tricolour flags and replacing them with British flags in the Carnmoney and Antrim Road areas.
Following the arrival of the PSNI, the loyalist mob began to riot, throwing bricks and bottles and setting fire to cars.
A building that houses Alliance Party offices, including those of justice Minister David Ford, was attacked and windows were smashed in a business on the first floor.
An attempt was made to hijack a bus after the driver was ordered to block a road with it.
Loyalists were also blamed for bomb found outside a Catholic church in the village. It was uncovered near a ramp used by disabled people to access the church at about 10pm on Saturday.
Dozens of people - many of them elderly - including the curate Fr Damian McCaughan, were forced to leave their homes for more than four hours during the subsequent alert.
The parish priest said suspicious objects have been left outside a number of churches and homes in recent weeks.
Sinn Fein Newtownabbey councillor Gerry O’Reilly slammed those responsible for the attack on the church saying the device could have killed or maimed.
“Last night’s attack on St Mary’s On The Hill was the latest in a series of despicable sectarian acts against the church and this community,” he said.
“To actually target the sick and elderly and people with disabilities getting access to the chapel has to be condemned outright. These people are the most vulnerable in our society.”
He said the loyalist flag protest “was a clear attempt to intimidate and strike fear into local residents in Glengormley.
“It was also another attack on democracy with the attack on the offices of a political party,” he said.
“Any excuse for this wanton destruction just doesn’t wash.”
But he said any Irish flags, raised ahead of St Patrick’s Day and Easter commemorations, should be taken down.
“The erecting of our national flag in Glengormley to be used as either marking out territory or trying to antagonise others is disrespectful to that flag and residents have agreed with Sinn Fein that they do not want it.”