Lord Mayor of Belfast has declared himself “appalled” at a bid to intimidate a high-profile Catholic priest and others.
DUP councillor Brian Kingston was speaking following claims that Gary Donegan, of Holy Cross chapel near the city’s Twaddell-Aryodne interface, was being threatened.
It is believed the threats were made by dissident republicans, and that community workers have also been targeted.
No precise details of the threats have been revealed, but Father Donegan was quoted by the BBC as saying: “I’ve received threats in the past. But this is a different kettle of fish this time round.”
Councillor Kingston has been a representative for the Court ward in the north of the city for the last six years; the same region of the city where the Holy Cross chapel is based.
He was appointed Lord Mayor last week.
He told the News Letter he was “appalled” at the threats.
“The people responsible for these threats have nothing positive to offer society,” said councillor Kingston (who is also an Orangeman and a member of the Royal Black Institution).
“Their primary motive in seeking to undermine law and order is to advance their own criminal self-interests.
“The fact that they regard community workers and clergymen as their enemies shows how deluded they are.
“Their tactics will be rejected and the sooner they abandon these threats the better it will be for society.”
Six weeks ago Father Donegan had praised the Orange lodges involved in the Twaddell marching dispute, after they called off their regular planned parade for a night whilst a vigil was held nearby for the victim of a dissident murder in the republican-dominated Ardoyne region.
Former Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon of the SDLP called the threats “reckless and cowardly”.
She said: “No-one in north Belfast or anywhere in our city should have to face the threat of violence because of the work they’re doing to support peace in our community.
“Father Gary Donegan’s compassion for all people, regardless of their faith or background, permeates all he does.
“Those who have threatened him and others working positively in our community are cowards. They have nothing to offer and should withdraw their reckless threats immediately.”