Viable explosive device left at doors of church

Father Damian McCaughan of St Mary's on the Hill. INNT 10-014-FP
Father Damian McCaughan of St Mary's on the Hill. INNT 10-014-FP

THERE was anger and condemnation after a “crude, but viable” device was left at the doors of a Catholic church in Glengormley on Saturday night.

The device was discovered on the disabled-access ramp into St Mary’s On The Hill Church at around 10pm.

Police closed the Carnmoney Road and around 20 residents living nearby had to leave their homes while Army bomb experts examined the device for almost four hours. It was later removed for forensic examination.

St Mary’s priest Father Damian McCaughan said there was a lot of concern during the alert.

He said: “Police had received a call to say there was a device but the information provided was very vague and they were not even sure it was at our church, so we were concerned that something might be somewhere, but not found.

“It was found close to the main doors of the church and an area around the church had to be evacuated.

“That caused a lot of upset ,because some of our neighbours are elderly or disabled and there was a great deal of upheaval.”

He went on: “It’s concerning that this would happen at a church, a place that is sacred and it’s surprising that someone would feel that way towards us.

“We’re aware that there have been other churches targeted in recent weeks and it is very concerning for us and people are anxious.

“For us, we have always been very community relations-focused and enjoy good relations with other churches and in the community and we would hope that good work would not be jeopardised by these actions.”

Fr McCaughan added: “I must commend the police: they were excellent on Saturday night and they looked after us all very well.

“And we are very grateful to everyone who has offered their support and wished us well. That support is very comforting.”

Sinn Fein councillor Gerry O’Reilly slammed those responsible for the attack on the church, saying the device could have killed.

He said: “The attack on St Mary’s On The Hill was the latest in a series of despicable sectarian attacks against the church and this community.

“To actually target the sick and elderly people with disabilities getting access to the chapel has to be condemned outright. These people are the most vulnerable in society.”

This was the third time within the past five weeks that a suspect device has been left at a Catholic church in Newtownabbey.

At the beginning of February two pipe bomb type devices were found in the grounds of Sacred Heart Church, Ballyclare, and a hoax device was left at St Mary’s Star of the Sea Church in Whitehouse.

Newtownabbey Mayor, Alderman Victor Robinson added: “As I have said before, this is an attack on our community, our elected representatives and now our places of worship.

“Anyone with relevant information, I would urge them to get in touch with the PSNI. No right-thinking person could support these attacks.”

MLA for the area, Paula Bradley, said: “It is abhorrent that any place of worship should be targeted is this way.

“This madness must come to an end. I condemn these attacks without reservation and I appeal to anyone who knows who is responsible for any of these incidents to pass that information on the police, either directly on 0845 600 8000 or anonymously via the Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111.”