St Mary's Star of the Sea Church in Newtownabbey damaged in arson attack

St Mary's Star of the Sea The church has been attacked a number of times in the past

An overnight arson attack on a Catholic church in Newtownabbey, County Antrim, is being treated as a hate crime.

The damage was discovered shortly before 01:30 BST at St Mary's Star of the Sea Church on the Shore Road in Newtownabbey.

It is believed flammable liquid was used in the attack, which caused scorch damage to a back door of the church.

A police spokesman said they were treating the attack as a sectarian hate crime and appealed for information.

The church has been targeted a number of times previously. Last September, a petrol bomb and paint were thrown at the church.

Alliance councillor for the area, Billy Webb, said he was "shocked and horrified" by the attack.

He said: "No place of worship should ever be subjected to any attack. This is not the first time St Mary's Star of the Sea has become a target and this thuggish behaviour must be brought to an end.

"This latest attack on the church will sadden the parish priest, the parishioners and the local community representing all faiths. Those doing this really need to take a step back.

"This is just an attack on us all, and this campaign of intolerance must be brought to an end quickly."

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