Northern Ireland news

Damage to war graves memorial in west Belfast cemetery condemned

Damage caused to the war memorial in Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

NATIONALIST politicians have condemned an attack on a Commonwealth war graves memorial in Milltown cemetery, just over a week after vandals set fire to the historic gates of the west Belfast graveyard.

Substantial damage was caused to the memorial dedicated to 166 Catholic servicemen from the area who died in both world wars.

There are also 10 foreign sailors buried in the cemetery, whose graves are looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

On Sunday night vandals carried out an arson attack on the memorial wall, situated close to the Cross of Sacrifice.

The fire caused scorch damage to the stone memorial.

PSNI Inspector Daniel Kelly said it would cause "hurt to the local families and friends of those whose lives are remembered there".

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The Cross of Sacrifice at Milltown was erected after the First World War, with the burials of 102 Commonwealth casualties listed on the stone wall memorial.

A further 52 men who died in the Second World War were also buried at the site.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood described the attack as "appalling".

"It is vital that respect is given to all those buried in Milltown Cemetery regardless of background, creed or culture. This is a place of reflection and should be treated as such," he said.

"This attack is inexcusable especially as in a few days’ time, people will gather across the island on Remembrance Sunday to remember those who died in war and reflect on our shared histories."

It comes just over a week after vandals set fire to the gates of the cemetery.

The Catholic Church said it was reviewing security after it was believed traffic cones and a bin were placed behind the gates and set on fire.

Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said the cemetery should be a place of "quiet reflection".

"Unfortunately there is a small group who persist in causing damage, destruction and upset in the cemetery," he said.

"Such arson attacks as we have seen in the past number of weeks are disgraceful and need to stop.

"I have spoken to the cemetery management and the PSNI.

"The damage caused to the memorial was in quite an open space. I would urge anyone who saw anything suspicious to contact the PSNI."

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