Loyalist youths attack church

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An attack on the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Magherafelt, County Derry is the second such incident in the last year.

Damage was caused to a number of items in the church and a priest was verbally abused. As well as breaking vases of flowers, intruders also smashed an electronic hand sanitiser dispenser against the seats.

They threw around candles and dumped copies of Mass missals, while an attempt was also made to damage the microphones on the altar.

At the parish centre nearby, attempts were also made to break a defibrillator.

Parish priest Fr John Gates was on his way to say evening mass when he confronted three youths as they vandalised the device. He was then subjected to sectarian abuse and a lighter was thrown at him.

Saturday night mass had to be moved to the nearby parish centre as a result of the damage.

SDLP assembly election candidate Patsy McGlone described the attack on the church as “despicable”.

“There has been a build up of anti-social behaviour over the past wee while,” he said. “There has been some around the church as well ... it culminated in an event on Saturday.

Mr McGlone said the incident had left some older parishioners “a bit worried.”

“Magherafelt is a town where this sort of sectarian behaviour is out of place,” he said.

There was condemnation also from Sinn Féin’s Mid Ulster Assembly Election candidate, Emma Sheerin.

“No one should be subjected to abuse in a public space, especially in a place of worship. This is disappointing to see and should be condemned,” said Ms Sheerin.

The church was also a target for attack last year, when a number of stained glass windows were smashed, causing £4,000-worth of damage.

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