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Belfast Jewish graves attack sparks call for CCTV cameras

By Staff Reporter

Published 30/08/2016

Security cameras may be installed at council cemeteries in Belfast after Jewish graves were destroyed in a racist attack.

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said he was appalled at last Friday's incident, when 13 graves in the Jewish plot of the City Cemetery in west Belfast were wrecked.

The anti-Semitic hate crime has been making headlines in Israel, after 13 graves were destroyed in the Jewish plot, which dates back to 1871.

Around eight youths knocked over and smashed headstones.

The graves are in a walled-off, often locked section, at the rear of the huge cemetery on the Falls Road.

Mr Rodgers - who is chairman of Belfast City Council's cemeteries working group - said that it was time to undertake a review of security at council-owned burial grounds.

"Unfortunately, we may need to consider installing security cameras," he said.

"These thugs need to be caught and punished so that a strong message is sent out that the law-abiding people of Belfast are not prepared to put up with this."

In July it was announced that cameras will be installed at Derry City Cemetery in an attempt to curb a spate of vandalism in the graveyard. In the weeks beforehand, plots were desecrated and headstones and ornaments smashed.

However, CCTV systems are notoriously expensive, and last year Mr Rodgers' party voted with the DUP and Sinn Fein not to extend funding for security cameras in the Holylands area of south Belfast.

Mr Rodgers described the recent vandalism as "another horrid act of anti-Semitism against the Jewish community of Belfast who have given so much to the life and wellbeing of this city".

"The thugs who were responsible need brought to justice as quickly as possible, but that will only happen if the PSNI have information with which to apprehend the perpetrators," he said.

"That's why I am calling for a review of security at all Belfast City Council cemeteries and have asked for it to be on the agenda of the Peoples and Communities Committee, which is due to meet in two weeks' time."

Mr Rodgers said the review should also include cemeteries in Dundonald, Roselawn, Knockbreda, Knock and Balmoral.

"This isn't the first time that the Jewish graves have been vandalised and unless there is something done about it, it will happen again and again," he said.

"There have been other incidents of people either under the influence of drugs, or even distributing drugs within the confines of city cemeteries, causing trouble and wrecking graves, but very few have been brought to justice.

"I'm not aware of the last time that someone appeared in court in relation to causing damage in one of the city cemeteries."

Michael Black, chairman of the Belfast Jewish Community, told the Belfast Telegraph earlier: "It is important for us to get the cemetery back to normal as soon as possible.

"We have already had letters of support from the parties at Belfast City Hall and I have no doubt they will want to do all they can to help us.

"We have been trying to get the graves cleared, the rest is up to the authorities, so there will be some sort of compromise."

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