‘Attacks on church must stop’

There have been calls from all sides of the community for an end to attacks on St Mary’s Star of the Sea Church in Whitehouse.
St Mary's Star of the Sea, Whitehouse.St Mary's Star of the Sea, Whitehouse.
St Mary's Star of the Sea, Whitehouse.

The front door of the Catholic church was damaged in an arson attack in the early hours of Sunday, July 20 – the latest in a series of sickening attacks at the property.

Flammable liquid was poured over a door at the Shore Road church and set alight, causing scorch damage.

Police believe the attack took place shortly before 1.30am and have made an appeal for anyone with information to come forward. They are treating the incident as a hate crime.

The attack was the latest in a long-running series of incidents at the church, which has been targeted with petrol bombs, paint bombs and even pipe bombs over the past couple of years.

Alliance Councillor and local parishioner, Billy Webb, called for an end to attacks on the church.

“No place of worship should ever be subjected to any attack,” he said. “This is not the first time St Mary’s Star of the Sea has become a target and this thuggish behaviour must be brought to an end.

“This latest attack on the church will sadden the parish priest, the parishioners and the local community representing all faiths. Those doing this really need to take a step back. This is just an attack on us all.

“This campaign of intolerance must be brought to an end quickly and I would urge anyone with information to contact the PSNI as soon as possible so that those responsible may be dealt with before the courts.”

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds described the attack as “senseless” and claimed that those responsible were trying to “stir up tensions” in the area.

Calling for an end to attacks on the church, the DUP man said: “Places of worship should be respected. Everyone should treat another place of worship in the way they would like theirs to be treated.

“I trust the police will fully investigate this act and any one with information will assist them in their efforts.”

SDLP Councillor Noreen McClelland said the latest attack on the church had left “the whole community distressed and horrified.”

“St Mary’s is a place of worship and should be treated with respect. Those responsible should be ashamed of their actions. This is a despicable crime and I would ask anyone with any information to pass it on to the authorities,” she commented.

Investigating officers can be contacted at Newtownabbey Station on the non-emergency number, 101.