Chapel daubed in ‘tit-for-tat’ attack
St Matthew's chapel has been targeted yet again by sectarian attackers with Mass-goers yesterday (Wednesday) being met by the sight of red, white and blue paint spattered across the frontage.
Last week over £1,000 of damage was done to the chapel as graffiti threatening Celtic manager Neil Lennon was painted on the walls and lights were smashed in the grounds.
In what appears to have been retaliation for that attack, rocks, debris and metal tools were launched over the interface wall into Duke Street and residents in Susan Street, Cluan Place and Thistle Court were also targeted last weekend. The missiles were allegedly taken from skips on the nationalist side of the ‘peace wall’.
Patricia Johnston of the Short Strand Partnership said: “People today have emotions ranging from sadness to anger. We hoped the situation had moved on but now we’re taking a step back.”
She said there had been good contact with the “neighbours across the interface” and that youths of a nationalist background had not retaliated over the attacks on the chapel.
However some residents from the loyalist side of the interface disagreed with this sentiment after rocks were thrown over the fence at their houses on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Duke Street resident, Harry Oval (61) who is recovering from an operation, was one of those affected. “It’s happened a few times. A couple of weeks ago my son picked up a bag’s worth of rubble from the back garden. I’m just waiting for the window to come in.”
UUP councillor Michael Copeland said of the paint bombing of the chapel: “This is the latest in a series of possibly connected incidents...that simply reinforces the circle of tension that affects this district.”
He said of the rock throwing incidents: “It is my understanding that Cluan Place and Thistle Court have received similar attention as Duke Street over the weekend.
“It would be easy for everyone on one side of the fence to blame the other but it is my belief that those involved do not enjoy widespread support .
“It is time those who wish to live in peace are allowed to do so,” he added.
Jim Wilson, of the Belfast Conflict Restorative Consortium and the PUP said: “I’m disappointed that after what happened at the chapel that youths responded like this. This will not stop the work going on between the community here and in the Short Strand.”
The PUP donated £500 to helping fix the lights and helped remove the graffiti from the chapel, and Belfast City Council began removing the paint from the walls on Wednesday, March 9.
After the incidents at the weekend Brian Ervine said: “This is a sectarian, mindless attack, carried out by urban hooligans.”
Sinn Fein representative Niall Ó Donnghaile said: “ I totally condemn it, much like the situation last week — it runs contrary to the work of the whole east Belfast community. The danger is about things getting taken out of perspective — there are things coming over all walls. Despite the best efforts on the ground there are just some people who are determined to wreck things.”
Alliance councillor Máire Hendron said: “ This is the second attack on the church in the space of a week. People across east Belfast are sick of incidents like this.”
A PSNI spokesman confirmed all the incidents and said they had increased patrols locally.