Northern Ireland news

'Drunken louts' damage Jewish graves at Belfast City Cemetery

Some of the damaged headstones in the Jewish plot in Belfast City Cemetery. Picture by Matt Bohill

GRAVES at the Jewish plot at Belfast City cemetery have been destroyed in a "systematic" attack.

Headstones and surrounds were knocked over and smashed in the "sickening" attack on 13 graves yesterday afternoon.

Broken beer bottles and cans were also strewn around the plot. Police were called to the cemetery on the Falls Road in the west of the city at around 3pm after a member of the public noticed the damage. The PSNI said it is treating the attack as a hate crime and appealed for information.

Sinn Féin councillor Steven Corr said he believed up to a dozen "drunken louts" were responsible.

Mr Corr, who visited the plot last night, said the damage was "systematic" and "anti-community".

"They were going around knocking over surrounds around the graves. Some were trying to smash the concrete slabs covering the graves.

"The graves are in a secluded spot in the cemetery. Some of them were 100 years old," he said.

"It's hard to fathom really why anyone would want to do this."

North Belfast MLA William Humphrey said those responsible were "evil".

"A graveyard is a sacred place and should be respected as such," he said. "Those responsible are guilty of a most heinous hate crime."

Belfast City Council, which operates the cemetery, said it was aware of the criminal damage.

A spokeswoman said a clean-up operation had begun last night and would continue this morning. The cemetery is patrolled by park wardens working with community safety officers.

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