Northern Ireland news

Attack on Ahoghill Catholic church 'hate crime'

St Mary's Church in Ahoghill was targeted in a weekend paint bomb attack which is being treated by police as a hate crime. Picture by Hugh Russell
John Monaghan

A CATHOLIC priest in Co Antrim has said he has received messages of support from several Protestant ministers after his parish was targeted in a paint bomb attack.

St Mary's Catholic Church in Ahoghill was attacked overnight on Friday, with paint thrown across the door and front of the church, in an incident police are treating as a hate crime.

Parish priest Fr Hugh O'Hagan, who is 82 years old and self-isolating in the parochial house due to the coronavirus, told The Irish News he had received phone calls from three local Protestant ministers expressing solidarity and condemning the attack.

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"The relationships are very good here and there is a lot of nice people right across the board," said Fr O'Hagan.

"In the deeper days of the Troubles this sort of attack would have happened, but it hasn't happened for a good number of years now.

"We will be taking steps from Monday to get it cleaned - I am hoping the council would be willing to help - but please God it will be cleaned up quickly," added the parish priest.

The parish priest of Ahoghill, Fr Hugh O'Hagan, said the attack on the church was the first such incident in many years. Picture by Hugh Russell

TUV councillor Stewart McDonald condemned the attack as "totally unacceptable" and appealed for anyone with information to contact police.

"An attack on any place of worship is an attack on the entire community who, in normal times, assemble there," he said.

"Everyone has the right to practice their faith and have their place of worship respected. This attack does nothing to advance any cause and only brings shame on those responsible."

Paint was thrown over St Mary's Chapel on the Ballynafie Road in Ahoghill. Picture by Hugh Russell

Sinn Féin councillor Ian Friary said the incident was "a sectarian hate crime and those responsible should be held to account".

"Parishioners and locals are incensed by this disgraceful paint bomb attack which is nothing more than blatant sectarian vandalism."

Police have appealed for anyone with information to contact officers on 101.

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