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True grit ensures that Ardoyne Mass is not cancelled for first time in 150 years

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Fr Gary Donegan helps Mass-goers cross the police cordon to the church during the security alert outside Holy Cross Church

Fr Gary Donegan helps Mass-goers cross the police cordon to the church during the security alert outside Holy Cross Church

Fr Gary Donegan helps Mass-goers cross the police cordon to the church during the security alert outside Holy Cross Church

Parishioners yesterday defied dissident republican bombers to ensure daily morning Mass went ahead at Ardoyne in north Belfast.

As the security services dealt with a device that had been thrown at police officers but failed to explode, there were fears that Mass would have to be cancelled at the nearby Holy Cross Church for the first time in 150 years.

Not even events during the height of the Troubles had led to services being cancelled.

Holy Cross rector Fr Gary Donegan spoke to police before the 10am service and it was decided that a small number of parishioners could go under the police tape and make their way along a wall into the grounds of the adjoining monastery and then into the church building.

Fr Donegan said: "We were determined that Mass would go ahead. We negotiated a track through the monastery along the wall. A controlled explosion had already happened by that stage and safety was paramount."

He said Mass-goers were disgusted that a device would be placed or thrown in the "vicinity of consecrated ground".

Fr Donegan said there was abhorrence at the attack on police and also disgust that a place of worship was caught up in it.

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After Mass Hugh Magee (75), a former youth worker, said: "I was glad to be able to get to church."

Another parishioner said: "This might be a bit of an own-goal for the dissidents, the fact that it nearly stopped Mass for the first time. Thank God we are not dealing with some horror."

The bomb has been described by detectives as advanced and sophisticated, even though it failed to detonate when it was hurled on the Crumlin Road.


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