Northern Ireland's First Minister signals support for church security scheme

(Photo: Unsplash/Annie Spratt)

Northern Ireland's First Minister has signalled her support for the introduction of a places of worship security fund. 

CARE NI Director Tim Martin and Policy Officer Mark Baillie met Arlene Foster and other MLAs this week to discuss proposals for the fund after research by the group found that places of worship in Northern Ireland had been attacked over 600 times in just five years.

The fund would help places of worship cover the cost of implementing more security measures, like installing CCTV, alarm systems or gates and fencing.

A similar fund in England and Wales is now in its fifth year.  The Places of Worship Protective Security Fund stands at £3.2m this year and offers churches and other places of worship grants to help protect themselves against hate crimes. 

During the meeting, Foster said her party was in favour of additional support for places of worship at risk of attack, including the creation of a places of worship security scheme. 

She indicated that the DUP would work to provide additional support, CARE NI said after the meeting. 

Commenting on the First Minister's support, CARE NI's Policy Officer Mark Baillie said: "We welcome the DUP's support for additional support to be provided to places of worship which are at risk of or have been attacked.

"We are reaching out to politicians across the spectrum here in Northern Ireland and are optimistic there's real support for action to support places of worship which are impacted by attacks.

"It's vital churches and other places of worship are protected from further harm. Our research highlights how common it is for a church to be targeted in acts of violence and vandalism.

"Freedom to worship without fear of being attacked is a human right and one we're determined to protect."