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Fr Joe McVeigh: I would like to meet people who attacked my home

By Allan Preston

Published 15/11/2016

The vandalised war memorial in Glenavy
The vandalised war memorial in Glenavy

A priest whose Fermanagh home was targeted in a sectarian hate crime on Remembrance Sunday has said he wants to talk to his attackers.

Fr Joe McVeigh said he was left "in disbelief" when he found his parochial house in Lisbellaw with three ground floor windows smashed.

Returning home in the evening after attending two wakes on Sunday, he thought he had been robbed at first when he saw the damage.

"First it was disbelief, then shock, followed by anger and a whole mixture of emotions," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Police described the incident as a hate crime after ruling out other motives such as burglary and vandalism.

"I'm a Catholic priest in a very loyalist village - but I've had no trouble up to now, apart from some Union flags put up on my gate," said Fr McVeigh.

"I hear there was trouble here way back in the bad old days. You don't expect it now though, it's disbelief really. I thought we were past that stuff."

Addressing his attackers, he said: "It's a pity you have to resort to this, there's no need for it. I'd love to talk to you about whatever's hurting you.

"If it's not vandalism, it's something against me personally or just a Catholic priest being here. I'd like to talk to them."

Fr McVeigh said the Protestant community in the area had rallied round him since the attack: "It's very disappointing it should happen. I'm sorry if it gives a bad image of Lisbellaw, as I find people here to be friendly and supportive," he said.

"This is definitely a minority thing and it's disappointing. Those who did this are giving a bad impression of the village."

Posting on Twitter yesterday, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "I unreservedly condemn (the) cowardly attack on the Parochial House of Fr Joe McVeigh in Fermanagh. Spoke to him today. Shameful."

Sinn Fein councillor Debbie Coyle said Fr Coyle was well known for his cross community work in the area.

"We have to have a zero tolerance towards hate crimes," she said.

"He's a lovely fellow and I'm quite shocked that's happening to him."

Police have appealed for witnesses to call 101, quoting the reference number CC2016111301184 or to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 11.

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