Girl (16) and mum struck in church service attack

A 16-year-old girl and her mother were hit with glass but unhurt during an attack on Rasharkin Free Presbyterian Church as a Service was taking place on Sunday evening.

Minister, Rev. Kevin McLeod, said the pair and the rest of the congregation were shocked by the incident which occurred around 7.30pm.

He said the incident could have been more serious as glass could have gone into the eyes of the pair who were sitting near a window.

The clergyman told the Times: “The Service was just under way when a stone was thrown at the window. A mother and daughter had some glass on them but they were not cut but understandably they were shaken. It could have been quite serious.

“At first I thought a light bulb had exploded and we were all quite shocked.”

Rev McLeod said the service was disrupted but they were able to continue after a short time.

He believed the stone was propelled with great force.

“It wasn’t just thrown, it had to be catapulted,” he said.

The minister said he was shocked that a place of peace like a church was attacked especially during a Service.

He said they are now faced with a dilemma as to how they replace the broken decorative glass.

Rev McLeod said if the one pane is fixed it may look out of place with the others or otherwise they may have to replace them all.

He said they may have to consider getting reinforced glass but he said is loathe to have to resort to putting up grills on the windows and he hopes no more attacks will happen.

The minister was unsure as to the reason for the attack but he said a sectarian motive could not be ruled out.

He said: “It could just have been individuals who cause trouble for everybody but it could be sectarian as there has been a group of young people doing things in the village and Protestants have been targeted.”

“However, the church has had generally good relations with people in the village,” he added.

Ballymoney DUP councillor John Finlay slammed the attack.

Cllr Finlay said: “I totally condemn this attack on Rasharkin Free Presbyterian Church t while members attended Sunday worship.

“People have a right to worship without being intimidated and I appeal to anyone with information to bring it forward to the PSNI.

“This attack represents a continued campaign by a minority within the village of Rasharkin against members of the opposite community. I appeal to Sinn Fein, who are active in the local area, to work to smoke this minority out and bring them to justice.”

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay condemned the incident.

He said: “Attacks such as this are abhorrent and are absolutely senseless. No-one in Rasharkin supports this and people throughout this rural community are glad that no-one was injured in this incident.

“Attacks on any church are totally indefensible and must be condemned outright by all local representatives.”

Police in Ballymoney are appealing for information following the criminal damage incident.

The PSNI are appealing to anyone who may have noticed any unusual activity in the area to contact them at Coleraine on 084560 8000. Or, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800555111.