An attack on a Presbyterian church in Newry is being treated as a hate crime, police have said.
Damage was caused to a window at First Presbyterian Church (Non Subscribing) sometime overnight between March 27 and 28.
It was the second attack on the historic property in the John Mitchel Place area of the city in less than a year.
Police investigating the incident of criminal damage say they are treating it as a hate crime.
According to the minister-in-charge at the church, Rev Norman Hutton, the same window was targeted by vandals less than a year ago and repair work to some of the stained glass panels had only recently been completed.
Describing the latest attack as “very disappointing”, Rev Hutton said: “The stained glass window, which was actually erected in memory of my wife’s grandmother Margaret Hanna, was damaged about a year ago – in late April or early May – and at that time it was deemed it wasn’t a hate crime, which we contested as why would anyone attack a place of worship?
“This time the outer storm glazing has been smashed, but I can only hope there is no damage to the stained glass window itself as the repairs were only finished about two weeks ago.”
He added: “We have always had good relations with our neighbours, but it seems someone doesn’t want us here now.”
Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor condemned the attack on the church as “a despicable and evil act.”
“It is difficult to comprehend the mindset of someone who would desecrate any place of worship and there is understandable outrage within the local community that this incident has occurred,” he said.
“It is all the more significant given that this window was only repaired a matter of weeks ago following damage caused to it in a previous incident which occurred last year.
“This will no doubt cause great hurt to the congregation and it is extremely regrettable that they will have to incur further cost to repair the damage which has been caused to their church building.
“It is vital that the perpetrators of this sickening act are brought to justice and as such, I would appeal to anyone with information on the attack to report it to the police immediately.”
Investigating officers have appealed for witnesses to contact them on 101 quoting reference number 408 28/3/19.