Belfast Church Struggles Against Child Vandalism

An east Belfast minister has criticised the police for their slow response to attacks on his church by children.

A number of children have been caught climbing onto the roof of the church, throwing slates, smashing windows and letting off firecrackers during services at St Donard's Church of Ireland, said Rev Charles McCartney.

"There were young people damaging the premises, throwing stones, not only at us and breaking our windows, but at the cars passing by," he said.

The minister said police were slow to respond after being called.

He said on one occasion after contacting police he was put through to Lisburn Road station in south Belfast despite many other stations being much closer.

"Unfortunately, because the local station (Willowfield) that looks after us during the day is closed in the evening, then we have police from neighbouring stations who come and simply take a few details," he said.

"Then they pass it back to the local station the next day, so they're not really interested," he said.

In April, a new district command structure amalgamated south and east Belfast into one unit.

The minister said he was very concerned about the level of cover this left at night.

While waiting for the police to respond, Rev McCartney said he took pictures of some of the incidents taking place to help identify those involved.

"The police were actually almost upset by this route and really advised us that we should not be taking photographs of children," he said.

In a statement, the police said: "Police have received a number of recent reports of incidents of criminal damage at St Donard's Church.

"This has meant that the calls are not dealt with as a emergency incidents. The first available crew are tasked to deal with such calls."