ULSTER Unionist justice spokesman Tom Elliott has called for more protection for churches, Orange Halls, GAA premises – “and all symbolic buildings” – after learning that “a shocking number were subjected to attacks during 2012”.
The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA tabled a Freedom of Information request, and discovered that 25 Orange Halls were attacked, plus 10 Protestant churches, three Roman Catholic places of worship and three GAA halls.
“That doesn’t include private homes which were also attacked and damaged,” he said. “It reflects little credit on all communities. I exhort the PSNI to be more vigilant and improve protection – and, of course, the general public should help all they can. These attacks are hate crimes and I condemn them all unreservedly. Following a recent spate of pipe bomb attacks on Catholic churches in the south-east Antrim area, the police stepped up patrols in the area with the specific aim of deterring future attacks.
“In light of the evidence of attacks on Orange Halls and Protestant churches I call on the police to ensure that they too are afforded special attention in areas where they are perceived to be vulnerable to attack.
“Such attacks are a stain on Northern Ireland and I look forward to the day when all places of worship and symbolic premises are free from attack from people who seek to whip up sectarian tensions for their own evil ends.”