Northern Ireland

Graffiti daubed on churches and war memorial in Lisburn

Media captionParishioners at St Peter's Church in Stoneyford spent Saturday morning cleaning off sectarian graffiti

Two Catholic churches have been damaged in overnight sectarian attacks on the outskirts of Lisburn, County Antrim.

Graffiti was painted on St Peter's Church on the Rock Road, Stoneyford and on St Joseph's Church on the Kilcorig Road in Glenavy.

Police said the two attacks are linked and are being treated as hate crimes.

It is believed the vandalism to both churches was in response to an attack on a war memorial in Stoneyford, which had paint thrown over it on Friday.

'Backwards step'

Both unionist and nationalist politicians have criticised those behind what appeared to be "tit-for-tat" incidents and said they would work to diffuse tensions in the area.

Image caption Police said they were treating the attack on St Peter's Church as a hate crime

Ulster Unionist councillor for the area, Robert Butler, condemned the church graffiti and said it was the second time the memorial had been attacked over the last three months.

"We will work together to ensure that these attacks don't escalate, and that anybody involved will be brought to justice as quickly as possible," he said.

"I think there's a feeling of vulnerability, people want to know they're going to be supported by their representatives. What has begun is dialogue on the ground over the past few months, which we must ensure isn't lost."

SDLP councillor Pat Catney said the community was shocked by the recent spate of attacks.

"This is a backwards step. I'm very disappointed, but with the work of level-headed people in the community we'll try to diffuse the situation," he said.

'Mindless acts'

"If anyone knows anything bring this to the police. These are just individuals following their own agenda who have nothing to offer at all, they're nothing but destructive. We need these people out of our community."

Image caption Grey paint was thrown over the war memorial on Friday morning

Alliance councillor Brian Dornan said: "Any attack on a place of worship is completely unacceptable.

"There can be no justification for these mindless acts of vandalism."

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