Belfast Telegraph

Church arson treated as hate crime

Detectives in Northern Ireland are treating an overnight arson attack on a church as a hate crime.

Scorch damage was caused to the front door of the St Mary's Star of Sea church in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim.

It is the latest in a number of attacks on the Catholic place of worship.

It is believed sectarian vandals poured flammable liquid on the church and set it alight shortly before 1.30am.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said they are treating the attack as a hate crime.

They have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds condemned those behind the attack.

"This is a senseless attack," he said.

"Those who carried out this utterly appalling action only want to stir up tensions and cause offence.

"I hope everyone will be calm and there will not be a tit-for-tat response."

Mr Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, said places of worship should be respected.

"Everyone should treat another place of worship in the way they would like theirs to be treated," he added.

Sinn Fein councillor Gerry O'Reilly described the arson attack as despicable.

"The people who attempted to set fire to the St Mary's Church on the Shore Road need to realise they are not representative of the local community who see their deeds as hateful and despicable," he said.

"This is not the first time that St Mary's Church has been attacked but fortunately the fire did not take hold."

Mr O'Reilly appealed to anyone with information to contact the PSNI.

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