RUC accused of graves attack
Sixteen memorials in Belfast's republican plot in Milltown cemetery were destroyed last week in an act of vandalism which may have been the work of the RUC.
The attack, on Wednesday, 19 January, occurred just hours after reforms to the RUC were announced by Peter Mandelson in the British parliament and within 12 hours of the funeral of IRA Volunteer Tom Williams who had been buried in the cemetery.
Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hartley, who visited the scene, raised the possibility of RUC involvement, saying: ``There is a very deep suspicion that the RUC were involved in this.'' He pointed out that an RUC surveillance tower bristling with electronic video and listening equipment in Andersonstown barracks overlooks the plot.
Also pointing the finger at the RUC was Belfast National Graves Association spokesperson Liam Shannon. According to Shannon, the Irish News office got a call at 8.50pm from a man describing himself as a ``hood'' saying that the republican plot had been wrecked.
The Irish News called Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey, who contacted Shannon. At around 9.30pm, four members of the Association went to the plot and found no damage.
They spoke to a number of men walking their dogs in the cemetery who told them that they had seen nothing suspicious in the area. Shannon and the others then left the graveyard at 10.15pm.
However at about 11.25pm, Shannon was contacted by members of his family to tell him that the RUC had arrived at his house and requested that he contact Andersonstown RUC barracks.
The RUC informed him that the graves in the republican plot had been damaged. Shannon requested that the RUC contact him about the incident, but his call was never returned.
At 8am the next morning, a member of the Association went to inspect the plot and found a number of headstones had been smashed. It is believed that around £10,000 worth of damage has been done to the plot.
Speaking about the attack, Sinn Féin's Tom Hartley said: ``There is a very deep suspicion in our community that the RUC were involved in this. Cemeteries are places of rest, and should remain places of rest. They shouldn't be targeted for this kind of desecration. The families of those buried here are distraught.''