A protest by loyalists from the Rathcoole housing estate disrupted the annual blessing of graves at Carnmoney Cemetery, a ceremony that had already been postponed because of the outburst of loyalist violence across Belfast in early September.
The ceremony at Carnmoney — a routine event at most Catholic parishes in Ireland — has been disrupted repeatedly by loyalists, leading the parish priest, the Rev. Dan Whyte, to call for a united stand by Protestants and Catholics ‘against this annual hatred.’
The Democratic Unionist mayor of Newtownabbey, the district where the service takes place, described the protest as ‘a shame.” William DeCourcy said he was disappointed ‘after all the hard work that has gone in’ to stop the protests.
The Rev. Whyte – who received a death threat over an earlier service – said his parishioners were ‘very upset’ by this year’s protest. Police kept the
protesters away from the service, but parishioners could hear shouted threats to desecrate the graves, as well as jeering, whistling and flute-playing when Catholic hymns were being sung.
‘We had worshippers enduring direct threats to dig up the dead and to urinate on their graves,’ Whyte said.
Later the loyalists also blocked a nearby road to traffic. They held signs reading ‘No Catholic blessing of Protestant graves’ and ‘No dignity for
Carnmoney Cemetery is a civic graveyard with both Catholic and Protestant graves. It lies between a mainly Catholic housing estate and Rathcoole.
In 2003, headstones on Catholic graves were vandalised and Fr Whyte received a death threat. Last year no protest took place during the Cemetery Sunday service.
Whyte postponed the ceremony this year because of rioting in many loyalist neighborhoods at the start of September. Those riots and protests that blocked commuter traffic in Belfast broke out because an Orange Order
march was diverted about 100 yards away from a Catholic neighborhood.
Unionist representatives had previously claimed that Protestants objected to the blessing of the graves because they were prevented from visiting the
graves of their loved ones during the service, which lasts about one hour once a year.
But DeCourcy, the DUP mayor, said: ‘I don’t have a problem with Cemetery Sunday and I’m not afraid to say that,’ he said. ‘People have the right to go to it. It’s a shame that other people feel the need to protest, especially at a religious occasion like this.’
Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly said there ‘is now an onus on unionist and loyalist politicians and community leaders to state very clearly on the record that Catholics have very right to remember their
loved ones buried in this and every other graveyard.”
Meanwhile, the notorious loyalist leader Johnny Adair has admitted beating up his wife in front of kids playing soccer in an English park.
Adair admitted punching his wife Gina repeatedly in the face and dragging her by the hair last week. The couple had been in a pub celebrating Adair’s
release from prison on a harassment charge.
Children and parents playing soccer in a park in Bolton – where Adair fled to after a deadly feud with his former UDA comrades in Belfast – witnessed
Adair’s lawyer, Nick Ross, told Bolton Magistrates Court that Adair had no history of domestic violence. The loyalist, known as Mad Dog, has been jailed repeatedly for directing terrorism and was once identified in a Belfast court as the killer of a Protestant man who had the mental capacity of a child.
He was released on bail and will be sentenced later.