Face of Our Lady hacked off in outrage

STATUE OF VIRGIN MARY ON BONFIRE

By Francesca Ryan

A STATUE of the Virgin Mary has been placed on a bonfire in a move that has caused outrage in Catholic West Belfast.

The statue was carefully positioned on a mammoth structure at Lanark Way off the Springfield Road. In an added insult, the statue’s face had been hacked off. Late yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) the statue was removed from the bonfire but it’s feared it will be put back up ahead of the Eleventh Night lighting of the bonfire.

Dozens of Protestant youths mixed with well-known senior Shankill loyalists at the site of the bonfire yesterday as we, along with a number of tourists from all over the world, took photographs. A local black taxi driver who took tourists across the peaceline yesterday said the two Americans in his cab were taken aback.

“They were disgusted,” he told the Andersonstown News. “They asked why these people were allowed to do this and how they could get away with it. I told them it was an attack on the Catholic religion, because that’s all it is at the end of the day.  They said they thought Orangesfest was supposed to be non-sectarian, but they’ve fairly got their eyes opened about this place.”

Sinn Féin’s Tom Hartley told the Andersonstown News that residents from Springfield Avenue had contacted him to voice their concerns about this latest marching season outrage.

“We are constantly being told by the Orange Order that this is their culture and that bonfires are part of this culture,” he said.  “What signal does this send to the Catholic community to see a statue of the Virgin Mary desecrated like this? Those behind this need to seriously look at how actions like this will impact on community relations at a difficult time.”

Sean Murray, Chair of the Springfield Residents’ Action Group, which liaises with loyalists on the issue of contentious parades, said: “This is a total disgrace. I would call upon community workers and politicians in the area of this bonfire to have it removed.

“It’s wholly insensitive and is the last thing the community needs during an already tense time of the year.”

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