An attack on cars that were used by three elderly nuns living in a unionist area of Belfast last night has been blamed on republican youths.
Four hooded males, believed to be in their teens, made their way through an interface gate from the nationalist Springfield Road to Workman Avenue in the Woodvale area shortly after 6pm yesterday.
Using bottles and stones they set about attacking two vehicles — smashing windscreens and side windows — before heading back onto the Springfield Road.
Witnesses said the gang cheered, laughed and hurled abuse at one resident before brazenly walking off.
The cars are used by three nuns who live at the property, and are owned by their congregation.
Sister Bridget McCourt (80) said she was alerted to the damage by a neighbour.
“I was having a cup of tea when I got a knock at the door. I couldn’t believe it,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.
“We use the cars to carry out our work.”
Sister Bridget — who is originally from Londonderry — said she has lived at the house since 2003.
Two other nuns aged 60 and 70 also live there.
She said that since moving into the area she had been warmly welcomed by locals.
“We have had a lot of trouble in the past with attacks from across the fence, but we have very good neighbours here who have always been very protective of us.
“In the past kids have come in and thrown paint and attacked windows; they assume we are Protestants,” she added.
Sister Bridget is heavily involved in cross-community work and said she has no intention of moving from the area.
Police removed both vehicles last night.
A community worker said the gates are open until 9.30pm in the summer so residents can access amenities if required.
Winston Irvine added: “Clearly this attack has been designed to instil fear into local residents who live at an interface.
“This is a despicable act and shows that republicans are intent on increasing tension.”
DUP Assembly Member William Humphrey also condemned those responsible.
“The people who live in the area have had to contend with this sort of violence and intimidation for years, and now this republican hatred has claimed four more innocent victims,” he said.
“I strongly urge anyone with any information about this appaling incident to come forward and share it with the police.”