THE Catholic Church has said it will review security at Milltown Cemetery after vandals set fire to the gates in a “shocking” attack.
The front gates at the West Belfast cemetery, which dates back to 1896, were set alight on Friday night after traffic cones and a wheelie bin were placed behind them and set on fire by a gang of youths. The fire service attended the scene and extinguished the blaze. A spokesman for the diocese of Down and Connor last night described the attack as “shocking” and said “significant damage” had been caused both to the gates and the entrance of the cemetery.
Fr Eddie Magee said that security would be reviewed in the wake of the attack. “This was a dangerous, inexcusable and deliberate act of vandalism which violated the sanctuary of a site of burial. “This action is particularly shocking because it is not only a manifestation of anti-social behavior but it also engenders a sense of distress among the local community whose loved ones are buried within this sacred place,” he said. “Places of burial hold deep significance for all within the community and such places should not be targeted for criminal acts.”
The area has been plagued by antisocial behaviour in recent times with traffic routinely targeted by stone throwing youths who gather in the Falls Park facing the cemetery. West Belfast MP Paul Maskey described the incident as “disgusting behaviour” and urged parents to monitor their children’s whereabouts. “This is unacceptable behaviour. Enough is enough,” he said. “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 over the weekend and early next week to try and get a resolution to this problem.”
Alliance councillor Sian O’Neill described the fire as an attack on the whole community. “It is deeply sad to see the disrespect some people have for our dead, in what is supposed to be an area of respect,” the South Belfast councillor said. “My thoughts are with the loved ones of those buried there, who may have been affected by this incident.
Making an appeal for information RUC/PSNI, 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 human person would 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 am appealing to parents and guardians to know the whereabouts of their children and who they are with, and to play a role in preventing them from becoming involved in behaviour which could see them end up with a criminal record.”
With many thanks to: Gareth McKeown, The Irish News. For the original story.