Church attacks linked to DUP bigotry
Church attacks linked to DUP bigotry

A string of sectarian attacks has seen five Catholic churches paint-bombed and a car burnt out at a Gaelic sports club in the North Antrim area.

In a separate incident in north Belfast, a bin was pushed against Greencastle Orange Hall and set alight while political slogans were daubed on an Orange Hall in Rasharkin, County Antrim.

Politicians condemned the string of attacks and appealed for efforts to reduce tensions.

The attack on the Catholic churches in and around Ballymena took place at Harryville, on Crebilly Road and the Larne Road in Ballymena, plus the Portglenone Road in Aghoghill, Ballymena Road in Cullybackey and Ballymena Road in Portglenone.

The gates of a GAA club in Ahoghill were forced open and a car driven into the grounds was burnt out in a KKK-style manner.

Up to a dozen families have fled the north Antrim village in recent years because of loyalist intimidation, community workers said yesterday.

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithi McKay said a GAA mural in the nearby village of Dunloy was also attacked.

“This was clearly a series of orchestrated attacks on Catholic Church and GAA property in the North Antrim area last night which needs to be condemned outright,” he said.

“Unfortunately, such incidents have occurred before in the lead-up to the Twelfth and there is an onus on everybody in this area, especially elected representatives, to use their influence to ensure that tensions do not rise further and that attacks on either side of the community are brought to an end.

“I would urge anyone with any information on these attacks to bring it forward to the authorities and ensure that those behind the attacks are prosecuted.”

Mr McKay warned that the remarks of politicians could fuel sectarian divisions.

In particular, he said that the attacks on the churches were motivated by the same anti-Catholic sentiment articulated by the DUP’s new ‘Minister for Culture’ Nelson McCausland.

On Thursday, Mr McCausland launched the Orange Order’s July 12 events as one of his first actions as minister and faced accusations of not showing the same interest in events linked to the Catholic and nationalist community.

“I have personal views regarding worship and I would not attend a service in a Roman Catholic church,” said Mr McCausland.

“That has always been my position and remains such. That doesn’t mean that I do not have good relationships with Roman Catholic people.

“I wouldn’t want to offend them and I am sure they wouldn’t want to offend me.”

“Since he came into office less than a week ago, Nelson McCausland has engaged in a media campaign attacking the GAA, the Irish language and now the Catholic Church,” said Mr McKay.

“The sectarianism which underpins his politics is exactly the same as that which motivated the overnight attacks on the three Catholic Churches in the Ballymena area.

“It is no good for individual DUP members to condemn sectarian attacks when one of the people selected by their party leader to serve as a Minister in the Executive is directly helping to create the conditions within which sectarianism is justified and motivation is provided for disgraceful attacks like we witnessed last night.

“Once again a senior figure in the DUP has failed the test of political leadership when it comes to confronting sectarianism. We recently saw a similar abdication of leadership from Gregory Campbell in the wake of the brutal murder of Kevin McDaid in Coleraine.”

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