Irish Republican News · December 28, 2012
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Arson attack on Catholic church


A Catholic priest has urged those responsible for a suspected sectarian arson attack on his County Antrim church to leave their Catholic neighbours in peace.

Fr Anthony Curran said he believed the attack, which caused thousands of pounds of damage to Our Lady of Lourdes Church at Whitehead, was connected to the ongoing loyalist protests over the removal of the Union flag from Belfast City Hall.

Significant damage was caused to a boiler room in yesterday’s attack.

It is understood that a claw hammer was used to smash into the building at around 3.40am.

The blaze destroyed a heating boiler and badly damaged electrical wiring and although it had not spread into the church by the time fire fighters arrived, there was some smoke damage.

A number of large statues and religious artefacts which were being stored in the boiler room were destroyed.

Sunday Mass and Christmas Mass had to be celebrated in the nearby parish hall.

Asked if he believed the attack was connected to protects linked to the removal of the Union flag from Belfast City Hall Parish Fr Curran said: “I presume it would be a fair judgment to make. We can’t say [for sure]. It would seem to be.

“We are always a bit apprehensive when things get tense like this over the past couple of weeks.”

Fr Curran said parishioners were shocked by the fire.

“I feel sorry for the elderly pensioners. They were distressed,” he said.

“The church has been there for 100 years and many of these people have lived here for many years. It’s very precious to them.

“It’s at the heart of the community and in the last year their school has been closed so it is even more special to them.

“These people are very generous in their attitudes towards other people.

“When it comes to the Saint Vincent de Paul they are very generous and items would be given to both Protestant and Catholic people.”

Fr Curran urged those behind the attacks to leave their Catholic neighbours in peace.

“It’s very hard to fathom the minds of people who would do that,” he said.

“I would say to them we are not your enemies.

“Whatever grievances you have they can’t be resolved by attacking your Catholic neighbours.

“We as a parish community feel strongly about the community and inter-Church relations and we are anxious to maintain that.”

East Antrim Sinn Fein assembly member Oliver McMullan offered his sympathies to those affected by the fire.

“I though the days of burning down and destroying places of worship had gone and now we are back to this again,” he said.

Alliance East Antrim Assembly member Stewart Dickson, whose constituency office in Carrickfergus was ransacked and torched by a loyalist mob earlier this month, also condemned the arson attack.

“There can never be any justification for an attack on a place of worship,” he said.

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© 2012 Irish Republican News