War memorial paint attack 'revenge for Easter Rising ruling'
A paint attack on Larne War Memorial could have been carried out in retaliation for the council's rejection of an Easter Rising monument, a unionist councillor believes.
Police are treating the incident, which happened between Wednesday evening and 8.30am yesterday, as a hate crime.
Pictures showed white paint splattered over recently laid Remembrance Day wreaths, the metal plaque and stone pillar.
It is the second time that the memorial, which recently underwent a £27,000 refurbishment, has been vandalised in the past 18 months.
The latest attack came shortly after Mid and East Antrim Borough Council voted against further discussions about replacing an Easter Rising memorial in the neighbouring village of Carnlough.
The original memorial, which was erected on council land without planning permission last year, was removed by contractors last June. Shortly afterwards, the first paint attack on the Larne War Memorial occurred.
DUP group leader for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Alderman Gregg McKeen said that it was "too big of a coincidence" that Larne's War Memorial had twice been attacked after council decisions on the Carnlough memorial.
"I believe they were trying to put a point across," he said.
"It's disgusting that this has happened a second time after a considerable amount of money was spent refurbishing the memorial. It will cost more taxpayers' money to replace.
UUP MLA John Stewart said he was keeping an open mind but admitted: "It's a bit of a coincidence that this has happened in the same week as the council's decision".
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said the vandalism "achieves nothing except increasing tensions".
But Sinn Fein Carnlough councillor James McKeown said linking the decision on the Easter Rising memorial to the attack was "making a big leap".
He added: "Everyone should have respect for everyone's dead from the past and that should not be violated in any way.
"That goes for republicans as well as loyalists. Both should be able to remember their dead with respect and it should be a level playing field.
Larne Royal British Legion chairman George Deakin called for those who carried out the "disgraceful" attack to be brought to justice.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said it expected the repair bill to be in the thousands.