Outrage at desecration of Monkshill Cemetery

March 17, 2014

By Christine Keighery

The desecration of graves at Newry’s Monkshill Cemetery has prompted outrage and disgust amongst Newry residents and the families of those whose graves were vandalised in a rampage which took place over two nights last week.

Newry Sinn Fein Councillor Valerie Harte, whose own mother’s grave was desecrated in the senseless attacks, described the two acts of wanton vandalism as “totally unacceptable.”

Speaking to The Examiner following the latest attack which took place on Saturday evening, Councillor Harte said she was “totally disgusted that anyone would deliberately damage a grave” and said the fact that her recently deceased Mother’s grave was among those targeted made it all the more “devastating” that the desecration had happened on two occasions.

In the first instance of vandalism, which took place on the afternoon of Thursday 13th March, around 20 graves were desecrated with crosses pulled out of the ground, flowers and wreaths strewn on the ground and lanterns smashed.

Pictures of the aftermath of the mindless vandalism appeared on facebook last Friday afternoon and were soon met with anger and disgust from local residents and relatives of those whose graves were cruelly desecrated.

Family members and concerned citizens attended the scene on Friday in an effort to rectify the damage done to the graves of their loved ones. One man who spoke to us said he had witnessed a distraught elderly man whose wife had recently passed away, attempting to clear up the terrible destruction of her grave.

Council employees also worked tirelessly on Friday in the clean-up operation, even having to retrieve crosses from the nearby river after they had been callously dumped there during the rampage.

Shockingly, a similar attack then took place on Saturday evening,  with more graves desecrated, including the graves of four infants.

“For all of the families involved this is extremely upsetting, however for the loved ones of four small babies whose graves were destroyed I can only imagine the pain and annoyance must be dreadful” said Councillor Harte.

“We can think of no explanation for these attacks, no rationale and no motive.

“I would urge those who carried out these attacks to explain what they have achieved.  I think they should be ashamed of themselves and I sincerely hope they never do this kind of thing again.”

The Sinn Fein Councillor added that she did not believe that young people were responsible for the sickening vandalism as the crosses, which many families place at graves until a proper headstone is ready, are heavy and are well secured into the ground.

“The staff at Monkshill have been fantastic throughout this ordeal and have gone out of their way to tidy up as much as possible to spare families, I only hope they never have to do this again” she concluded.

One Newry resident whose mother’s grave was totally desecrated on Saturday evening spoke to The Examiner about how she felt “sick to her stomach” when she learned such depraved destruction had happened again.

Describing the scene that greeted some worried relatives who had made their way to the cemetery once the news broke of further desecration at the cemetery on Saturday, the outraged woman said,

“Thursday night’s incident was bad enough but tonights was just terrible!”

“Every single grave with a cross on it was wrecked! A lot of crosses were even thrown away and the families couldn’t find them! Plants, flowers or whatever was on each grave was either messed with or destroyed! It was in a shocking state” she said,

Police attended the scene on Saturday evening and were carrying out preliminary enquiries in the area yesterday (Sunday). Police have appealed to anyone who witnessed anything on the afternoon of Thursday 13th March or the evening of Saturday 15th March to contact them at Ardmore Police Station on 0845 6008000.