£17,000 bill to repair vandalised Belfast war graves
Commonwealth war graves in Belfast City Cemetery that were damaged in the last year will cost almost £17,000 to repair.
Twenty-six graves were affected, including several that were vandalised in October, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
More than 560 people killed during the First and Second World Wars are commemorated on the gravestones.
The CWGC said it was "disgusted" by the recent acts of vandalism and the restoration of the 26 affected graves will take place "as soon as the situation allows".
"The incidents have been reported to the authorities and the CWGC is extremely grateful for the strong moral and practical support it has received," the organisation told the BBC.
"The CWGC will continue to work with the local community and authorities to monitor the situation and is fully supportive of their efforts to address the anti-social behaviour at the cemetery."
The total bill will be £16,900 as the costs for the repairs are £495 per headstone and £155 per installation, the CWGC said.
West Belfast Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said the vandalism was "disgraceful".
He was responding to a tweet from Martin Magill, the parish priest for St John's Parish, Belfast, who said that "West Belfast needs to get the situation sorted" to allow for the graves to be repaired immediately.
The PSNI said that investigations continue but no arrests have been made.
"Damage to any grave is absolutely despicable," said Chief Inspector Gary Reid.
"A graveyard is a place where people come to pay their respects, and this behaviour and destruction has left individuals, families and communities distraught."
He added that police had received "heartening support" from the local community and statutory agencies.
Belfast City Council said it is committed to working with police and the local community to address anti-social behaviour and criminal damage.
"We have also deployed officers from our safer neighbourhoods team at key times to deter groups of people gathering in the cemetery and engaging in anti-social behaviour," a spokesman said.
"As part of our City Cemetery heritage project, we are planning to create a new visitor centre and improve facilities.
"It is hoped the increased footfall will also help to deter vandalism."
Information released by the council under the Freedom of Information Act shows that two war graves were also damaged in 2018.