Belfast pensioner devastated by grave vandalism
There's no respect in City Cemetery, says Andrew (82) after damage to parents' headstone
An emotional visit by a Belfast pensioner to his parents' grave turned to heartbreak on Christmas Day when he arrived to find their headstone had been attacked.
Andrew McAllister (82) said that he was "devastated" to see that the memorial at Belfast City Cemetery had been kicked over.
Mr McAllister, from Mount Vernon Gardens, said the polished black marble monument had been in place since the death of his father Thomas in 1989.
He noted that an adjacent headstone had also been vandalised.
Mr McAllister said that those responsible for the damage had "no respect".
Belfast City Council has admitted that vandalism is an "ongoing issue" at Belfast City Cemetery.
Last July the Belfast Telegraph reported that the west Belfast graveyard was being used as a "party venue" by groups of young people. During that incident a bin was stolen and set alight on a family plot.
Alcohol had been consumed and drug paraphernalia was found on the site, where a number of plots were damaged.
In 2016, 13 graves in the Jewish section of the cemetery were damaged in what local Sinn Fein councillor Steven Corr described as a "hate crime".
Mr McAllister said that the vandalism has "gone on for years" and described it as a "bad cemetery".
"There is no respect, especially in the City Cemetery," he said.
"Many a time I saw young people drunk up there, but I thought it had stopped." Belfast City Council said that if a headstone is damaged by vandals, the council will see that it is repaired.
However, if it has been damaged by "natural wear and tear", repairing it is the responsibility of the grave owner.
Mr Corr said that Mr McAllister's shock discovery must have been "very distressing and deeply traumatic".
He added that he would be willing to meet the pensioner at the graveside next week to discuss his concerns.
The councillor said that a new CCTV system featuring a four-way camera was installed in the cemetery about a month ago.
"I have no problem meeting this gentleman to try to reassure him," Mr Corr said.
"No matter what part of the city he comes from, there is no place for this type of thing.
"It is just wanton destruction and anti-community. It is an attack on the community.
"I can't comprehend why someone would desecrate a headstone. It does not matter what age it is. It is somebody's place for eternal rest. Everyone should be allowed to rest in peace."