Northern Ireland

Vandals cut down Bessbrook's Christmas tree

Bessbrook village Image copyright Google
Image caption The tree had been in Fountain Street, facing Charlemont Square

A County Armagh village has lost its Christmas tree after it was "almost sawn in half" by vandals.

The vandalised tree was removed from Bessbrook village because Newry, Mourne and Down Council feared the damaged trunk posed a risk to public safety.

Council chair, Roisin Mulgrew, said it was a "wanton act of destruction".

It is not the first time Bessbrook's decorations have been vandalised and Ms Mulgrew said she did not know if the tree would be replaced with a new one.

"There is a strong possibility that it might not be replaced, as many local people feel that those engaged in this wanton act of destruction will attack it again," the Sinn Féin councillor added.

Ms Mulgrew told BBC News NI that a few years ago vandals with saws damaged Bessbrook's Christmas tree but this year they had cut almost all the way through the trunk.

'Focal point'

Just hours ahead of a ceremony to switch on the village's Christmas lights on Thursday night, council staff noticed that the decorations on the tree had been vandalised.

"Staff worked all day trying to get the lights sorted but couldn't do it," Ms Mulgrew said.

"Santa was coming, so the celebrations for the children went ahead," she explained, but the tree could not be illuminated.

Image caption Council chairperson Roisin Mulgrew said the attack had angered Bessbrook residents

The following day, the full extent of the damage to the tree was noticed and the council ordered its removal for safety reasons.

Ms Mulgrew described Bessbrook as a "beautiful, quaint and historic Quaker village" with a dedicated community association that worked hard to maintain its character.

She said the Christmas tree had become a "focal point" for local residents and the attack was inexplicable.

'Disgusted'

"I share the anger and frustration of all right-minded people at this deliberate attack on a community trying to bring a festive flavour to their village.

"There is nothing funny about this criminal act of damage and hopefully those who carried it out will be identified and face the full rigorous of the law".

SDLP councillor Kate Loughran told BBC News NI she was "absolutely disgusted" by the vandalism.

She said it was an attack on local children and the community who looked forward to the festive decorations every year.

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