Soccer fans accused of desecrating memorial to soldiers killed by IRA

Incident in Warrenpoint condemned as ‘vile’ and blamed on Cliftonville supporters

Desecrated wreaths at the memorial to the Narrow Water Massacre in which the IRA killed 18 soldiers  near Warrenpoint in Co Down. Photograph: Memorial to the Narrow Water Massacre/PA Wire.

Desecrated wreaths at the memorial to the Narrow Water Massacre in which the IRA killed 18 soldiers near Warrenpoint in Co Down. Photograph: Memorial to the Narrow Water Massacre/PA Wire.

 

Police in Northern Ireland are treating the desecration of wreaths at the site of the IRA murder of 18 soldiers as a hate crime amid reports that football fans were to blame.

Poppy wreaths, crosses and written tributes were vandalised at Narrow Water, near Warrenpoint in Co Down where a British Army convoy was ambushed by two roadside bombs in 1979.

Cliftonville Football Club, a Belfast-based outfit whose supporters would mostly be drawn from the nationalist/republican tradition, said it was aware of reports that some people returning from Saturday’s fixture against Warrenpoint Town were responsible.

The club condemned the incident as and sought to make clear that the perpetrators were not an official or affiliated supporters’ club.

“I totally condemn any act of desecration. We live in a sad society where anyone would get a kick out of desecrating a memorial,” Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor said.

‘Pathetic’

“If anyone connected with our Club has any information about the incident then they should report it to the PSNI. This pathetic act isn’t in my name nor that of Cliftonville Football Club.”

The club said it would cooperate fully with the PSNI investigation.

A PSNI spokesman said: “The incident is being treated as a hate crime.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster condemned the vandalism, saying it was a “a disgusting and twisted act of hatred”.

“Those responsible need to be held accountable for their actions. Desecrating a memorial runs against the natural instincts of humanity,” she added.

Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor said it was hard to “find words strong enough” to condemn the actions of those responsible.

“Their attack on this memorial is deplorable,” he said. “They are vile and disgusting individuals who have brought shame on the football club which they claim to support. They must not be allowed to get away with this.”

Sinn Fein Assembly member Sinead Ennis said there is “no place for attacks like this in our society”.

“Monuments and memorials are important places in communities and should be respected.” - PA