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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 September, 2003, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Body may be exhumed
Fr Dan Whyte
Fr Dan Whyte is worried about the consequences of moving the body
A family is considering moving the body of a relative following sectarian attacks on graves at a County Antrim cemetery, a priest has said.

Fr Dan Whyte, parish priest at St Mary's on the Hill Catholic Church in Glengormley, said on Sunday he was approached after the family's grave was vandalised twice.

Vandals damaged Catholic graves and daubed graffiti on the church in the run-up to a blessing of graves ceremony earlier this month.

Fr Whyte said he was worried about the consequences of their decision.

"I said to them it was a very serious thing and to think long and hard about it, because it's an emotionally distressing experience.

"It's like burial all over again. I also said to them, if you're looking for a guarantee from me that such damage would not happen again, I'm afraid I would not be able to give it."

Meanwhile, the SDLP has condemned as "abhorrent" claims that Catholics in County Antrim were responsible for bringing sectarian intimidation on themselves.

Ulster Unionist councillor Ivan Hunter condemned the attacks on graves, but said Catholics were to blame.

"Some of us feel that the service does go over the top, and is an affront to other users of the graveyard," he told the BBC's Politics Show on Sunday.

Ivan Hunter
Ivan Hunter said some felt 'intimidated' by graveyard ceremony
He said some people felt "intimidated and upset" by the large crowd at the cemetery, "particularly when that's accompanied by loudspeaker equipment".

Mr Hunter added: "I can't run away from the truth - the Catholic community has to take responsibility for this.

"They have to realise that they have created this situation, and it's up to them to try and prevent it happening again.

"They can do that in the long term, but I agree the short term is much more difficult."

SDLP councillor Donovan McClelland said on Sunday that Mr Hunter's comments were "blatant sectarianism".

"He simply adds to the problem and gives those responsible for the intimidation more fuel to carry out their disgraceful actions," said Mr McClelland.

He called on the Ulster Unionist Party to take disciplinary action on Mr Hunter.

Earlier this month, parish priest Fr Whyte was warned by police to review his personal security after receiving what they described as "reliable intelligence" about death threats from loyalist paramilitaries.

Up to 200 loyalist protesters attempted to disrupt the service at Carnmoney cemetery, with shouts, jeers and whistle blowing.

Five graves were vandalised at the cemetery
Protestant clergymen in Newtownabbey united to condemn the loyalist death threat against Fr Whyte.

Newtownabbey Clergy Fellowship, which includes Presbyterian, Church of Ireland and Methodist ministers, said they were "shocked and saddened" by vandalism at Carnmoney cemetery and the disruption of a service there.

In June 2003, more than 20 memorials in the graveyard were vandalised. Memorial crosses on some graves were smashed and headstones were overturned.

The cemetery is beside Rathcoole estate, a loyalist housing estate where Catholic postman Daniel McColgan, 20, was murdered by members of the loyalist Ulster Defence Association, as he arrived for work in January 2002.

In May 2002, his grave in Carnmoney was damaged in a similar attack.

Priest gets loyalist death threat
15 Sep 03  |  Northern Ireland
Headstones damaged in grave attack
29 Jun 02  |  Northern Ireland
Loyalists blamed for cemetery attack
17 Jun 02  |  Northern Ireland

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