Belfast Telegraph

Call for calm at flashpoint cemetery

By Jonathan McCambridge, Crime Correspondent
11 September 2004

LOYALISTS and nationalists both appealed for calm today ahead of a flashpoint cemetery service in Newtownabbey which has erupted in violence for the past four years.

Tensions in Glengormley are simmering ahead of the Catholic Blessing of the Graves ceremony in Carnmoney Cemetery tomorrow, with police expected to have a significant presence at the event.

Last year loyalists from the Rathcoole estate rioted near the cemetery and Catholic Priest Fr Dan Whyte received a death threat.

In previous years grave plots have been desecrated and a blast bomb has also been left near the site.

But following a series of meetings between the PUP, Ulster Political Research Group, SDLP and representatives of the Catholic Church, hopes are high that the event will pass off peacefully tomorrow.

Tommy Kirkham from the UPRG and Billy Hutchinson of the PUP released a joint statement in which they said there is "no excuse" for any trouble surrounding the event.

The two loyalist representatives have also attempted to dispel myths surrounding the event by sending youths from the Rathcoole estate for cultural awareness training.

They have also stressed that the cemetery will be kept open all day tomorrow for all denominations.

They added: "Whilst we support the right to peaceful protest, it is essential that such protests be carried out in a dignified manner at all times.

"We appreciate that the organisers of this year's service have moved the ceremony from June until September to facilitate further dialogue on the matter.

"We conclude by saying that it is our desire and the wish of the Protestant community in Rathcoole that Cemetery Sunday goes off peacefully."

The SDLP said they had met with police this week and had received assurances that a significant police presence would be available on the day should trouble break out.

Councillor Noreen McClelland said: "We welcome this statement and hope it is successful in reducing some of the tensions which have surrounded Cemetery Sunday in recent years.

"Hopefully the event, which is of great importance to many people, can pass off quietly and with dignity."

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