Anger as vandals leave Bessbrook facing Christmas without tree
Vandals who destroyed a Co Armagh town's Christmas tree have been branded an "absolute disgrace" as it emerged the council may be unable to provide a replacement.
Damage to the Christmas tree lights in Bessbrook was discovered by council officials shortly before the switch-on event.
The vandals, who struck on Thursday night, had also sawn three-quarters of the way through the tree - meaning it had to be removed on safety grounds.
The incident is the second time in recent years that Bessbrook's festive fir has been attacked.
Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Roisin Mulgrew, said residents were "very angry" at the "absolute wanton vandalism", and she revealed the council may be unable to provide another tree.
"It is absolutely despicable that someone would do this to a Christmas tree - this has cast a shadow over Christmas celebrations in the village," she said.
"There were around 300 children and a good crowd at the switch-on on Thursday, but they were only able to turn on the other lights, which marred it.
"My understanding is that the council doesn't have another tree at this moment in time, so I am going to speak to council officers to see if it's possible to get additional lighting around other, smaller trees in the area.
"The village may be left without a main Christmas tree."
Ms Mulgrew said the tree, lights and installation could have cost ratepayers "many hundreds of pounds and potentially up to £1,500" to procure.
UUP councillor David Taylor said it was "important not to let the small-minded people who did this win".
"I will be speaking to the council about replacing the tree, but there is an obvious danger that this could happen again," he added.