Friday, November 18, 2005

Security cameras have been erected around a Catholic Church in County Derry in a bid to ward off loyalist attacks

Connla Young:

Magherafelt parish priest Peter Murphy says the decision to install the cameras was unfortunate but necessary. The security move came just weeks after Saint John’s Church, which is located between Castledawson and Magherafelt, was targeted in a loyalist graffiti attack. During the September incident a number of graves were desecrated after loyalist vandals attacked headstones with paint and scrawled obscene sectarian graffiti on the church walls.

St John’s was reopened just over 12 months ago with a complete internal refit after it was gutted in a loyalist firebomb attack in 2003.

Fr Peter Murphy said the security cameras are needed.

“This church has a special place in the affections of parishioners who found these acts very distressing indeed. We have to try and prevent the chapel and adjoining graveyard from being attacked in such a way again and hopefully the cameras will achieve that aim. There is now 24-hour surveillance at Saint John’s which will hopefully deter those who carry out such disgusting acts.”

Magherafelt Sinn Féin councillor Sean McPeake said it was a matter of regret that the cameras were erected.

“It’s regrettable that in this day and age that we have to resort to placing cameras around a church. It’s indicative of the sectarianism that has been festering around the Magherafelt area this summer.”

Magherafelt SDLP councillor Jim Campbell is saddened by the erection of the cameras. “It’s a sad reflection on society we live in that not even the dead are safe. The people while in that churchyard did nobody any harm when they were alive they are hardly going to do any harm now.”

In recent months an outbreak of tit-for-tat sectarian incidents in the Magherafelt area has resulted in churches and Orange halls being targeted in vandal attacks. In August the PSNI issued a warning to GAA clubs in south Derry after they claimed to have uncovered a loyalist plot to spread broken glass on gaelic fields. Days later an explosive device was discovered at the gates of Magherafelt O’Donovan Rossa GAA club, which sits just yards from St John’s Church. A recent anti-GAA poster campaign in Counties Derry and Antrim originated in the Magherafelt area in September.

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