Northern Ireland

Pigs' heads with racist slogans found at church in west Belfast

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Media captionThe pigs' heads were found outside the church on Saturday morning

Two pigs' heads with racist slogans written on them have been found outside a church in west Belfast.

They were found at St Luke's Church of Ireland in Northumberland Street on Saturday morning.

Police are treating it as a "race hate incident". The church is not currently in use.

There had been social media rumours the church had been sold to the Islamic community for a mosque, but that has been denied by local representatives.

A spokesperson for the Church of Ireland Diocese of Connor said: "It is completely untrue that St Luke's has been sold. Any sale would only take place after a process involving the select vestry, diocesan council and representative church body.

"The highly distasteful act which has taken place is profoundly saddening."

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin tweeted: "This is disgusting and must be condemned in the strongest terms. There is no place for race hate. Info to us on 101."

Ch Insp Gavin Kirkpatrick added: "Officers are currently carrying out enquiries into this incident which must be condemned by all."

'Sinister and disgusting'

Sinn Féin assembly member Fra McCann also condemned the incident.

"This is a building that is used for community events and it would no doubt have been distressing to come across such a gruesome sight," he said.

"The fact that anti-Islamic slogans were written on the pigs' heads makes this all the more sinister and disgusting."

DUP assembly member William Humphrey said: "Those responsible for this sickening incident are not representative of the Shankill community."

The North Belfast MLA added: "Those who have started and spread false rumours about the future of this church building bear a major part of the responsibility for what has occurred."

Progressive Unionist Party leader Billy Hutchinson said the incident was "absolutely reprehensible".

"The incident highlights the dangers of rumour and speculation and also reinforces the need for further education to challenge negative attitudes towards people from other backgrounds," he said.

The SDLP's Alex Attwood said it was disgraceful.

"Hate and intolerance should have no space in our community and those responsible should have no hiding place on our streets," he said.