Police probe after 'sickening and disgraceful' attacks on war memorials in Northern Ireland
Attacks on a war memorial in Milltown Cemetery and poppy wreaths at the Narrow Water massacre memorial have been condemned ahead of Remembrance weekend.
The PSNI is investigating after an incident of criminal damage and arson at the British Legion memorial in Milltown in west Belfast was reported yesterday morning.
Officers are also investigating after poppy wreaths were desecrated over the weekend at the Narrow Water Memorial in Warrenpoint.
The memorial remembers 18 soldiers who were killed in two IRA bomb blasts in August 1979.
Inspector Daniel Kelly, commenting on the vandalism at Milltown Cemetery, said: "This is the second incident of thoughtless, criminal vandalism in just over a week at the cemetery.
"I have no doubt that this latest incident will cause further hurt to the local families and friends of those whose lives are remembered there."
The entrance to Milltown Cemetery was set alight by a gang of youths on Friday, October 27.
More than 100 community activists later turned out in protest against vandals who caused extensive damage to the gates.
Sinn Fein MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey, slammed those behind the latest arson attack in the cemetery.
He said: "The attack on the war memorial in Milltown Cemetery must be condemned in the strongest terms.
"Milltown Cemetery is a place where people go to pay their respects to those who have passed in quiet reflection. Thousands of families have a connection with the cemetery.
"Unfortunately, there is a small group who persist in causing damage, destruction and upset in the cemetery. Such arson attacks, as we have seen in the past number of weeks, are disgraceful, and need to stop."
SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said: "It is appalling that the war memorial in Milltown Cemetery has been vandalised in an arson attack. It is vital that respect is given to all those buried in Milltown Cemetery, regardless of background, creed or culture. This is a place of reflection and should be treated as such.
"This attack is inexcusable, especially as in a few days' time, people will gather across the island on Remembrance Sunday to remember those who died in war and reflect on our shared histories."
Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor also condemned the destruction of poppy wreaths at the site of the Narrow Water bombing, describing the act as a hate crime.
Mr Taylor, who represents the Newry and South Armagh area, said: "I am absolutely sickened by this latest incident, in which poppy wreaths placed at the site of the Narrow Water bombing were desecrated.
"This is one in a long line of many attacks on wreaths at this location and it is all the more poignant that it has happened as we approach Remembrance weekend.
"This is appalling behaviour which will only serve to further compound the pain of the loved ones of the service personnel who lost their lives at Narrow Water in August 1979.
"Quite simply, this is a hate crime which should be condemned by all right thinking people. The individuals responsible have nothing to offer to any civilised society and I would appeal to anyone with information to pass it to the PSNI immediately."
Anyone with information on either of these incidents is asked to call the non-emergency number 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 08000555111.