A memorial marking the deaths of three young Scottish soldiers has been vandalised.
The monument stands at the end of Ballysillan Park, north-west Belfast, and was first unveiled in 2010.
A different memorial to the soldiers at White Brae, further out on the rural edge of the city, has come under sustained attack by vandals for years.
The Royal British Legion released a statement in which it said: “Despite the fact the White Brae Memorial has been attacked on at least 23 times, the main memorial at Ballysillan has remained unscathed until last night or early this morning when those intent on raising tensions in the area threw black paint over the memorial.
“What is so hurtful in this instance is the fact the desecration was directed at the lower part of the memorial where the three boys’ faces are sculpted in a soft Portugese granite.
“Words cannot express our disappointment and anger at this attack.
“We had hoped that following the arrest and successful conviction of someone for the last attack at White Brae last year, this would be a thing of the past, but it would appear the spectre of republican sectarianism has raised its head again.”
North Belfast DUP MLA Nelson McCausland said: “The memorial at Ballysillan Avenue in north Belfast features sculptures of the three young men who were killed at White Brae and the attackers have poured tar over the three sculpted heads.
“This was a shameful attack and it was clearly intended to cause the maximum possible damage to the memorial.
“Two of the soldiers were just teenagers when they were killed and the families are still scarred by the callous manner in which the young men were murdered by republican gunmen.
“Northern Ireland was shocked by the murders and at the inquest in August 1971 the coroner described the killings as ‘one of the vilest crimes ever heard of in living memory’.
“Those were vile acts of murder and this is a vile act of vandalism.”
Although Mr McCausland described it as “tar,” the PSNI said: “Police in north Belfast received a report of criminal damage to a memorial at Ballysillan Avenue on the morning of Thursday November 16.
“It was reported that paint had been daubed on the monument sometime overnight.”
The damage was rectified on Thursday.
According to the book Lost Lives, which contains information about all Troubles deaths, John McCaig (17), his brother Joseph McCaig (18) and Dougald McCaughey (23) – all members of the Royal Highland Fusiliers – were all shot in the head at the remote mountain road in the White Brae area to the north-west of the city.
It states they were killed on March 9, 1971 (although the Royal British Legion and others have given the date as March 10).
The exact circumstances of their deaths were not definitively established.
They had been drinking in Belfast earlier in the day.
Their bodies were discovered by children.
According to Lost Lives, as far back as 1972, when a memorial to the soldier was mooted, family members of the dead were advised that any such monument “might be damaged by vandals”.
TUV councillor Jolene Bunting said: “It is disappointing but not surprising that in a week when people across Northern Ireland were united in solemnly remembering the outbreak of the First World War in which unionists and nationalists fought together for the freedom of Europe republicans should choose to display their hatred in such a fashion.”