Belfast Telegraph

Protest over arson attack at Belfast's Milltown Cemetery

By Cate McCurry

More than 100 community activists turned out in protest against vandals who caused extensive damage to the gates of Milltown Cemetery.

The entrance to the graveyard in west Belfast was set alight on Friday night.

Traffic cones and a wheelie bin were placed at the gates and set on fire by youths.

People in the area have been left angry after it emerged the gates had been damaged in the arson attack.

More than 100 people from the area called for the youths involved to hand themselves over to police and urged their parents to act responsibly.

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey was among those who attended the graveyard on Saturday.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "This was a gathering of community activists and Sinn Fein representatives.

"We wanted to show solidarity and pay respect because of the damage caused to the gate.

"We walked around the graveyard as part of the demonstration.

"It was a call for action to those individuals who carried out the attack on the graveyard on Friday.

"This is unacceptable behaviour. Enough is enough.

"I'm calling on parents to stop their kids from hanging about the park and the graveyard at night.

"I'm sure those responsible for this unacceptable behaviour have relatives interred in Milltown like many of us.

"This is disgusting behaviour and I will be meeting with agencies early next week to try and get a resolution to this problem."

The West Belfast MP said it was one of a series of incidents in the Falls Park area.

Police said some reports included a group of youths who had gathered in the area and were fighting among themselves.

Area commander for west Belfast, Chief Inspector Kellie McMillan, said: "This is a cemetery - a graveyard - a place for quiet reflection to peacefully pay respects to loved ones who are no longer with us.

"I cannot understand what any person feel could be gained from such thoughtless, criminal vandalism.

"Police will be working with the community in west Belfast to prevent this behaviour and stop further hurt being caused to families and friends of those whose lives are remembered here.

"This is not acceptable behaviour and a robust response from policing and the criminal justice sector is required.

"I'm appealing to parents and guardians to know the whereabouts of their children and who they are with.

"They must play a role in preventing them from becoming involved in behaviour which could see them end up with a criminal record.

"If anyone has any information about who was involved in any of these incidents, if you were passing Milltown Cemetery and saw something, call us on the non-emergency number 101."

Alliance councillor Sian O'Neill said the arson was "an attack on our whole community".

She said: "It is sad to see the disrespect some people have for our dead in what is supposed to be an area of respect.

"My thoughts are with the loved ones of those buried there, who may have been affected by this incident, and my thanks go to the fire brigade who ensured the fire did not spread any further.

"Milltown is not a council-owned cemetery but I hope the council will be able to work with the relevant agencies to help prevent a repeat of this disgraceful behaviour."

She urged anyone with information to come forward and tell the PSNI.

Belfast Telegraph

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