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17 April 1997 Edition

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More churches attacked

THE SYSTEMATIC BURNING OF CATHOLIC churches continued this week with another two chapels, in rural County Down and Antrim, gutted by sectarian arsonists.

At St Peter's the Rock at Stoneyford in County Antrim a sectarian gang forced their way into the small country chapel in the early hours of Tuesday morning 15 April, and poured inflammable liquid around the building before setting it alight. Extensive damage was done to the church.

According to Seamus Armstrong, a parishioner and retired fire officer, the sectarian gang was dropped at the main road and went through the graveyard to the church door which they forced open. Inside the loyalists poured the ``fire accelerant'' around the altar, set it alight and before escaping set another fire at the door.

The church has been attacked before while the primary school on the same site was blown up in the 70s while the mobile huts that have replaced the school have themselves been attacked three times in the last three years.

The latest attack this week was in Annaclone near Banbridge in County Down. On Wednesday morning attackers broke into the sacristy of St Colman's chapel and torched it.

Gerry Adams has called for ``an immediate end to all attacks on Catholic or Protestant church property.'' He said: ``Firebomb attacks on Catholic churches are just as wrong, just as sectarian, as firebomb attacks on Protestant churches and Orange Halls.''
He said the only way to prevent such events is through a process of dialogue based on equality which builds trust and breaks down the barriers dividing nationalists and unionists.

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