Belfast cemetery vandalism by teens 'is hate crime'
Anger has erupted after graves at a cemetery were damaged.
A number of burial plots at Belfast City Cemetery were affected after youths used the land as a party venue.
The vandalism was described as "a hate crime" by one Sinn Fein councillor.
West Belfast representative Steven Corr compared it to an attack on the Jewish plot at the cemetery last year, in which 13 graves were damaged.
He told the Andersonstown News: "Last year there was uproar, and rightly so, when the Jewish section of the cemetery was attacked, it was described as a hate crime, well I think that this is also a hate crime, it is anti-Christian."
In the latest incident, which occurred last weekend, a bin was stolen and set alight on a family plot. Alcohol had been consumed and drug paraphernalia was found on the grave site
A number of other vandalism incidents have occurred in the past.
In 2011 the cemetery's war memorial was damaged, tyres have been burnt on the graves over the years and illegal activities like under-age drinking and drug taking are a frequent occurrence at the weekends.
Mr Corr called for tougher action against the culprits, some of whom he claimed were offending "week in and week out".
He added: "We can put all the security in the world in place here but at the end of the day it boils down to parental responsibility.
"It is a disaster waiting to happen, something bad is going to happen in here, we don't want another kid to become a statistic. Parents need to be more responsible."
A Belfast City Council spokesperson said action was being taken to address the vandalism problem.
"We are working hard to improve the environment of the City Cemetery and Falls Park as part of a master plan and are actively seeking community involvement in tackling a range of issues, including anti social behaviour," she said.
"We are currently consulting on heritage plans to improve facilities at the cemetery and hope the increased footfall will help deter vandalism.
"We will work with elected representatives and other public and community representatives to find the best solutions, but in the meantime urge members of the public in the cemetery and the local community to report all incidences of anti-social behaviour to our staff."
Belfast City Cemetery was opened in 1869 and holds the remains of around 225,153 people.