Cars parked at a Catholic church in Harryville, County Antrim were stoned on Saturday in a troubling reminder of the siege of the church by a unionist mob in the late ‘90s.
Vehicles were damaged in the attack outside Our Lady’s Chapel in Harryville, near Ballymena.
Local residents discovered bricks and stones had been thrown after evening Mass on Saturday. No arrests were made.
During the late 1990s, the church was the scene of intense intimidation and violence against mass-goers. For nearly two years Catholics in the area were forced to run a gauntlet of abuse and missiles every Saturday night as hundreds of loyalists picketed the chapel.
The demonstrations were mounted because of anger at nationalist objections to Orangemen marching through the predominately nationalist village of Dunloy, nearby.
The violence ceased just weeks after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in April 1998.
Sinn Féin Assembly member Philip McGuigan condemned the attacks and called on Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley to make his voice heard on the matter.
The North Antrim MLA said: “The motivation behind these attacks is purely sectarian hatred. This church was of course the scene of the disgraceful unionist protests a number of years ago.
“Unionist political leaders in this area including the local MP Ian Paisley have to make their voices heard and unequivocally condemn the harassment and attacks on the local Catholic population in Ballymena.”
But the local DUP councillor has so far refused to condemn the attack, believed to be linked to loyalists building a bonfire in a park next to the church.
Sinn Féin Ballymena councillor Monica Digney said she was disappointed by the DUP response.
She said: “For people who purport to be men of God, you would think they could condemn an attack on vehicles belonging to parishioners celebrating mass.”
DRUMCREE STANDOFF SEEN
Meanwhile, hopes of a compromise in time for the year’s most contentious parade are fading after both sides to the dispute said that no progress had been made on the issue since last year.
The Protestant Orange Order Orangemen and residents of the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown say that there has been no mediation since the July 2004 procession, which ended with Orangemen finishing their parade at a barrier short of the Catholic enclave.
Nationalists met with the Parades Commission in January and spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said there had been no engagement since.
“If people were serious about trying to get Drumcree resolved, if they were serious about a compromise for Portadown, they would not have been sitting on their hands since July of last year,” he said.
“The opinion on the ground within the nationalist community in Portadown is that the issue seems to be resolved. There have been no parades since July 1997.”