The UDA and UVF have denied any involvement in attacks on the Dunanney Centre in Rathcoole.
Representatives of both paramilitary organisations met with members of Rathcoole Churches Community Group, which owns and runs the facility, on Thursday afternoon (August 14) - just hours after the latest in a series of attacks on the building.
Sometime overnight on August 13/14 sectarian slogans and target symbols were painted on the walls of the centre. It was the fourth attack in as many months and came just weeks after the property was extensively damaged in an arson attack.
The sickening slogans were painted out by young volunteers from the SPARK Newtownabbey churches project.
Following Thursday’s meeting, which was also attended by local councillor and Newtownabbey Mayor Thomas Hogg, the group issued the following statement: “Political, church and loyalist leadership wish to wholeheartedly condemn the attacks on the Dunanney Centre.
“Rathcoole Churches Community Group has widespread community support for the work it carries out and the invaluable services it provides to everyone.
“We jointly call on the perpetrators of these attacks to cease immediately and appeal to anyone with any information about those responsible to pass it on to the police.”
Speaking after the meeting, the two community workers who spoke on behalf of the paramilitary groups, David McCrea and Phil Hamilton, commented: “They (the UDA and UVF) have given reassurances for us to convey to the community that they are not behind these attacks. They have also said that they utterly condemn the attacks and they appeal for the people behind this to stop it immediately because it doesn’t represent loyalism.
“If anyone has information they should go to the police, or they can go to church leaders or community representatives, but these attacks need to stop and they need to stop now.”
Alderman Hogg added: “The council fully supports the work of the Dunanney Centre and the invaluable resource it has become to the local community. Many vital services such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, employability programmes for young people and older people’s services are provided through this well respected and much needed facility.
“The council condemns the recent attacks on such a valued asset to the community and asks that they come to an end. Anyone with information regarding these attacks is encouraged to contact the PSNI.”
Meanwhile, the people of Rathcoole and surrounding areas are being invited to show their support for the Dunanney Centre, the organisations based in the building and the services they provide, by attending a public rally on Monday afternoon (August 18).
The demonstration, which is only expected to last 15 minutes, will take place in the car park at the Rathmullan Drive facility at 12 noon.
Rathcoole Churches Community Group has organised the public show of support in response to the recent series of attacks on the property.