There has been widespread condemnation of the weekend attack at Carnmoney Cemetery during which four graves were vandalised.
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds branded the incident “sickening” and urged local people to help the police catch those responsible.
“It is disgraceful that anyone should violate the peace and sanctity of a cemetery. Such desecration is not wanted in Newtownabbey or anywhere else. Our thoughts are very much with the families affected by this vandalism who will be deeply hurt and upset,” he said.
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson described the incident as “a despicable attack motivated by nothing other than blind hatred.”
“Attacking the final resting place is an act of mindless thuggery. This will be very upsetting and distressing for all the families of the loved ones involved. This is nothing more than a mindless act of vandalism,” he said.
His former party colleague, Rathcoole community worker Phil Hamilton, said he had spoken to some of the families whose loved ones’ graves had been attacked.
“The people who did this showed total disrespect for people’s graves, not only for the graves they attacked, but also other graves around them. This was a deliberate sectarian attack and the families are very, very distressed about what has happened.
“Any desecration of graves, attacks on churches or other places of worship, or attacks on Loyal Order halls are totally wrong and they should stop immediately,” he told the Times.
Macedon councillor John Scott said that those responsible for the attack “must be caught and punished for their heartless actions.”
“This is a sickening incident which will cause anguish to the relatives of the deceased. I really wonder about the mentality of anyone who is incapable of showing respect to the dead, who should be allowed to rest in peace.”
UUP councillor Mark Cosgrove added: “This vile attack on people’s place of final rest is totally and utterly disgusting. My own father is buried in Carnmoney Cemetery along with thousands of others from throughout the community. What type of sick individual goes out to attack graves in what should be the ultimate place of peace and tranquillity?
“I know I speak for the entire community in Newtownabbey when I say that you do not and never will represent our views. Go away and let the rest of us live in peace and grieve for our loved ones in peace.”