Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

It feels like a personal attack, says warden as vandals hit church again

A county Antrim church has been attacked for the third time in as many weeks.

A storage shed belonging to Holy Trinity Church of Ireland in Ballycastle was badly damaged after it was set on fire at about 11pm on Easter Monday.

A PSNI spokesman confirmed they were treating the blaze as suspicious but said they were keeping an open mind about a motive.

Windows at the small church in the Diamond area of the town were smashed on March 29 and a week later, on April 6, vandals ransacked the vestry and tried to steal a safe.

Substantial internal damage was caused after a gang went on the rampage smashing windows, emptying fire extinguishers and throwing Communion wine around the building.

Collection plates were stolen and old, priceless Communion linen and a visitors book were also destroyed.

Church warden Betty Wilkinson said: “I feel it is very sad. When you are attached to the church it almost feels like a personal attack to see such wanton vandalism.

“I can’t see any motive for the attack. I feel very sorry for the people who are doing it that they have no other aspiration in life than to go around breaking things.”

Mrs Wilkinson said the church would now be closed to the public.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: “Police are treating as suspicious a fire that caused extensive damage to a shed at the rear of a hall at Quay Road in Ballycastle.

“Members of the Fire and Rescue Service who were called to the scene shortly before 11pm extinguished the blaze.”

Meanwhile it is understood Ballycastle Presbyterian Church has also suffered at the hands of vandals in recent weeks.

On April 6, a shed in the church grounds on Castle Street was damaged. It is believed a number of headstones in the graveyard were also targeted.

Kevin McAuley, a member of the Moyle District Policing Partnership, has called for more police on the ground.

“There are no police in Ballycastle apart from the daytime community beat officers, who it has be said are doing a very good job.

“Police management is from Coleraine and Ballymena and that doesn’t work.

“We must go back to old style policing with police based in towns like Ballycastle, Ballymoney, Cloughmills, Bushmills who know the people, can identify individuals and solves crimes quickly.”

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