Second arson attack on St Patrick’s Church
Second arson attack on St Patrick’s Church


A second arson attack on a Catholic church in Belfast city centre is being blamed on loyalists.

It is understood a box of leaflets and papers was set on fire at St Patrick’s Church on Donegall Street shortly before 6pm on Tuesday, April 24. The fire broke out in the part of the church where cremation urns are stored.

The fire also comes just weeks after curtains draped in front of a Holy Door were set alight, causing greater damage to the church. An elderly priest was praying in the church when the building was set on fire. He escaped injury was said to have been very shocked.

The fire also came just days before the church plans to host a Mass of Hope for Belfast’s homeless community. A new soup kitchen will be opened at the Mass on Wednesday evening.

Tensions in the area escalated this week after loyalists gathered along a stretch of nearby Royal Avenue in an attempt to intimidate a republican Easter commemoration.

Five years ago, the church became a sectarian flashpoint after an infamous incident outside the building during Belfast’s annual 12 July parade by the anti-Catholic Orange Order. A sectarian band was filmed marching in a circle outside the church, playing The Famine Song - an anti-Catholic song.

Thirteen band members were prosecuted, but they successfully appealed their convictions in 2015 with the bizarre claim that they were playing a Beach Boys song.


Meanwhile, a spate of arson attacks in County Antrim is being linked to a loyalist feud in the town of Larne.

In the latest incident, a car was driven into a house and set on fire. It is the seventh attack in the town in over a week to be linked to the feud. Last Tuesday, a gang targeted a hairdressers when a car was reversed through a metal shutter and set alight. Days earlier, a number of cars were torched.

At least two of those arrested in relation to the attacks have been described in court as being “involved” or “influential” in the unionist paramilitary UVF.

Sinn Fein’s Oliver Mc Mullan said residents are too afraid to speak out.

“I was contacted by one of the families, they feel terrorised and just want to live in peace. Nobody wants this, it’s going back to the dark ages,” said Mr McMullan.

Elsewhere, there has been no claim of responsibility for an explosive device abandoned in Ardoyne in north Belfast in the early hours of Sunday morning. The PSNI have described it as ‘an attempt to kill police officers’.

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said “like all elected representatives” he condemned it outright. “We represent the people of Ardoyne here and they condemn it,” he said. “Those responsible for this don’t represent the people of Ardoyne. The community doesn’t want them.”

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