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Politicians united in disgust at 'hate crime'

By Joanne Fleming

Published 25/07/2016

First Minister Arlene Foster has led condemnation of the arson attack at Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church.

Mrs Foster described the fire in the early hours of Sunday morning, the second at the church in one week, as a hate crime.

In her Twitter account, the DUP leader wrote: "As I head out to church I am so sad to learn that Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church has been attacked. Senseless hate crime."

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also tweeted: "Disgusted at the despicable arson attacks on Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church. I hope the criminals responsible can be arrested. #shameful".

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said he was also "shocked and saddened to hear of the disgraceful attack".

"My thoughts are with its parishioners, who will be devastated", he added.

South Belfast DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said he was "appalled" and encouraged anyone with information to contact police.

"Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church is at the beating heart of the Four Winds community," he said, "supporting people from the cradle to the grave. Currently the church is running a programme for over 300 children, all are now left disappointed by this terrible act.

"Churches play a massive part in helping the community and I want to express my deepest sympathies to the congregation. I will do all in my power to support the people there."

South Belfast DUP MLA Emma Pengelly also tweeted: "Shocked and saddened by another attack on a South Belfast church. This must stop."

Local Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir urged anyone with information to contact the PSNI.

"As with the previous attack, the people behind this attack are targeting a hub of community endeavour and a place of worship and peace building," he said.

"My thoughts are with the congregation of Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church. I have been in contact with them and I know they will not be deflected from their good work by this senseless act."

Alliance Councillor Stephen Martin was "shocked and saddened". The Lisburn and Castlereagh Deputy Mayor said: "No place of worship should ever be subjected to this kind of attack and I join the local community in its outrage at those behind this attack.

"I would urge anyone with information to contact the PSNI, ensuring those responsible are removed from the streets and dealt with before the courts."

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