Community rallies around parish after fifth attack on St Mary's
A CATHOLIC church in north Belfast has been attacked with petrol bombs and paint bombs, in the most recent incident in a spate of sectarian attacks.
Previous bomb scares have brought the area to a stand-still while Army bomb technicians dealt with suspect devices – but on Sunday night the church itself was attacked with paint and petrol.
The front door and side of St Mary's Star of the Sea Church on the Shore Road were left scorched and marked suggesting a petrol bomb and paint bomb had been hurled at brickwork according to the PSNI.
Bottles and petrol were recovered from the scene.
Parish priest Father Anthony Alexander said he wouldn't want to second guess the motives of those involved in the incident and would rather continue to move on in a positive fashion.
He said the damage was "in the hands of the insurers" because fixing paint damage to sandstone bricks was a specialist job.
He said: "The parishioners are just getting on with it – there is no point sitting down and being miserable about what has happened – we are just going to keep moving forward.
"The police have been very good and there has been a lot of support from the local community, from neighbouring churches and from churches much further away.
"There have been offers to clean the stuff, and there have been phone calls and texts of support from right across the community.
"The four previous attacks were hoax bombs." He added: "I don't know why these attacks have happened and I don't want to second guess what goes on in the minds of these people."
Sinn Fein councillor Gerry O'Reilly described the latest attack as "despicable and completely sectarian".
"I'm calling for those within unionism to stand shoulder to shoulder with St Mary's parishioners and use whatever influence they have to end the attacks.
"Local people are very upset at this latest attack. There is no justification for such attacks on any place of worship."
Nigel Dodds, north Belfast DUP MP said: "Whoever is carrying out these disgraceful attacks must be caught and brought to justice.
"Sectarian attacks against churches, Orange Halls or other venues are hate crimes which must be stopped.
"As a society we must continue to stand for civil and religious freedom and tolerance. The entire community must unite against those who carry out sectarian attacks."
A spokesperson from the PSNI confirmed the Service was investigating. "Officers investigating this incident are appealing for witnesses or anyone with information to get in touch. They can be contacted at Newtownabbey CID on 0845 600 8000," added the spokesperson.