Attacks on places of worship happen every three days in Northern Ireland

There have been more than 600 attacks on places of worship in Northern Ireland in the past five years, prompting renewed calls for action to protect churches and other religious buildings.

Aug 27, 2020
By Paul Jacques

Following a Freedom of Information request to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the charity CARE NI revealed today (August 27) that since 2014/15 there have been 601 crimes recorded as criminal damage to religious buildings, churchyards or cemeteries in Northern Ireland across the 11 policing districts.

On average this means in the past five years an attack on a place of worship has taken place approximately every three days. Belfast City has seen the most, with 173 attacks, more than a quarter of the total number.

With lockdown restrictions beginning to ease and churches returning to worship services, CARE NI said the Northern Ireland Executive needs to consider policies to ensure places of worship are properly protected.

The charity has previously called for a Places of Worship: Protective Security Funding Scheme to be set up, mirroring a similar scheme available in England and Wales.

Created in July 2016, the fund provides financial resources so places of worship can buy security measures such as CCTV, fencing and lighting.

The Scottish government has announced it is introducing a similar scheme, leaving Northern Ireland as the only part of the UK without such a scheme, said CARE NI.

CARE NI policy officer, Mark Baillie, said: “Across Northern Ireland, churches and other places of worship have been attacked with alarming regularity and it makes sense, therefore, to consider introducing a security fund.

“More than 600 attacks in the last five years is a reminder that places of worship, which should be safe spaces for worshippers and congregants, are all too often targeted by vandalism and violence.

“The gradual easing of lockdown will surely only increase the opportunity and risk of further attacks and therefore, it’s important Members of the Legislative Assembly take action.”

He added: “Last year, following CARE’s NI previous research into this issue, we wrote to the party leaders asking for a manifesto commitment to create a security fund.

“We had positive engagement with a number of political parties and we are today calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to take this up.

“It is a human right for individuals to live out and practice their religious beliefs and attacks on places of worship offend against those rights.

“The scheme in England and Wales is a practical step we could introduce here to equip places of worship to invest in adequate security to prevent criminal damage.

“In a free and democratic society, no one should be afraid of gathering together with those who share their faith in a place of worship.”

Rev Aaron McAlister, Rector of Derriaghy Parish Church, said he would support additional government measures to protect places of worship after his church was broken into and vandalised in November last year.

He said an attack on a place of worship is an attack on the community that worships there.

Related News

Select Vacancies

Inspector

Ministry of Defence Police

Detective Sergeant

St Helena Government

Chief Constable – NPCC National Serious and Organised Crime Lead

Kent Police & Metropolitan Police Service

Sergeants and Detective Sergeants

Metropolitan Police Service

Assistant Chief Constable

Ministry of Defence Police

Detective transferees

Durham Constabulary

Copyright © 2022 Police Professional