Fury as war memorial is attacked for a third time
A third attack on a First World War memorial in as many weeks has drawn cross-community anger.
The stone column in Woodvale Park in west Belfast was daubed with paint by vandals. The damage was discovered at 7.30am yesterday. The memorial was erected in 2014 to commemorate all those who died in the conflict between 1914 and 1918.
Now, for the third time, the memorial and adjacent peace tree, which was planted in 1919, have been desecrated and daubed with sectarian slogans. The graffiti included 'Up the Springfield', as well as references to the IRA and Lee Rigby, the soldier murdered in broad daylight in England three years ago.
The vandals, who also shattered a granite plaque that sat under the tree, have been blasted by both unionists and nationalists. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the attack was "shameful". "It is as repugnant as the attack on the republican memorial in Milltown Cemetery," he added, referring to a graffiti attack on the republican plot there earlier this week.
DUP MLA William Humphrey said: "The memorial is there to mark both unionists and nationalists who fought side-by-side in the Great War. Those who did this have sick and depraved minds and are completely ignorant of their own history."
Tom Hartley, a former Sinn Fein councillor and historian, said: "Desecration is unacceptable no matter what community it comes from."
Last week nine poppy wreaths and flags were removed from the memorial.
Sam Coulter, vice-chairman of the Army Benevolent Fund, said he was saddened by the attack and blamed dissidents for it. "When we first applied to put a memorial there it was to commemorate all of those soldiers who went to the Great War - went there because their governments made the decision to send them.
"There was no political or religious point, they all fought side-by-side - it was purely to mark all European soldiers and we thought it was a fitting tribute."
SDLP MLA Alex Attwood, whose great uncle died in the war and was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Belgium, said: "These acts of vandalism and insults to those who died in the First World War are despicable.
"Those who vandalise memorials could learn much from his life and the lives and deaths of so many others."