Belfast Telegraph

Historic window broken as raiders break into St Malachy's Parish Church in Hillsborough

By Chris Kilpatrick

A 250-year-old stained glass window was smashed by thieves during a spate of church break-ins.

The ornate glass was shattered by intruders at St Malachy's Parish Church in Hillsborough.

The damage was described as "mindless" by a Policing Board member and MLA for the area, who called for PSNI patrols to be stepped up.

Four churches have been targeted in counties Antrim and Down in the past week.

The DUP's Jonathan Craig condemned those responsible and urged anybody with information to contact police.

"Churches are the heartbeat of our community, and for so many who are living in the rural areas, their local church is a place of support, comfort and a lifeline, especially at this time of the year when there are those who feel isolated and alone," said Mr Craig.

"I have spoken directly with the PSNI district commander, Chief Inspector Jonathan Wilson, and have called for more police resources to be put in place in the rural areas of Lagan Valley, and I would ask all churches to make sure that where possible valuables are not kept in the church.

"I would also urge everyone to be vigilant at this time and report anything that looks suspicious to the PSNI.

"A small section of the community believe that no places are off-limits, whether that's attacks on the elderly or breaking into churches.

"As a community, working with the PSNI, we must catch those individuals who are a parasite on our community, causing so much destruction."

Ulster Unionist councillor Alexander Redpath said he was shocked by the attack on the church, during which money was also stolen.

"The parish provides an invaluable service to the community including recently taking a role in the Christmas lights celebrations," he said.

Earlier this week the Church of Ireland urged clergy to be on their guard over Christmas. Money was stolen from St Malachy's Church, Aghaderg Church in Loughbrickland and St John's Church, Dromara.

St Andrew's Church in Lisburn was targeted as well.

A Church of Ireland spokesman said the thieves used specialist equipment to break into parish safes.

He said: "We are saddened to have been targeted in this way and hope that no further such incidents occur for us or for anyone else in this Christmas season and beyond."

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