Irish Republican News · November 24, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Church targeted by arsonists

A priest has esccaped injury after he was targeted by loyalist arsonists while he slept.

Father Eugene O'Hagan, parish priest at Sacred Heart Chapel in Ballyclare, Co Antrim, awoke to discover the fire at around 2am on Saturday.

Wheeled bins filled with rubbish were pushed against the back of the chapel and set alight, causing severe scorch damage to the building.

Three stained glass windows in the chapel were also damaged in the attack.

Fr O'Hagan said he was lucky to wake when he did.

``Something raised me out of my sleep, so I got up and checked the house, when I got to the kitchen I saw the place engulfed in flames. That was frightening,'' he said.

Following the incident the priest said police discovered the church's CCTV camera had been tampered with.

``The first thing the people responsible did was shimmy up the wall to get to the CCTV camera and adjusted it so it was unable to record the incident,'' Fr O'Hagan said.

``This is a sinister development. We have had stones and bottles thrown at the church in the past, but this is quite obviously more serious, as it app-ears to have been organised.''

He said the fire was a concerted effort to damage the church but could have killed.

``If it had spread into the utility room where there are flammable liquids, it could have acted as fuel. To me the concern is of what could have happened.''

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© 2003 Irish Republican News