Vandals who caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to machinery being used to extend Derry’s City Cemetery have been branded ‘mindless’.
The wrecking spree at the Lone Moor Road section of the cemetery took place over the weekend.
Newtonstewart Construction is currently carrying out work along the lower boundary to create up to 1,100 more plots for graves.
A spokesman for the building firm said two diggers had been damaged in the raid.
“When I arrived, I saw one of the diggers had part of it ripped off and bricks had been thrown through the windows,” he said. “The damage is costing around £2,000.
“This isn’t the first time there has been something like this. We had two panes of glass broken a few months ago.
“We cannot afford to be throwing away £2,000 every now and again.”
He said that young people had also been accessing the construction site and stealing pallets for bonfires, even busting open bales of bricks to get at the pallets beneath them.
Sinn Fein councillor for the area Patricia Logue criticised those responsible.
She said: “This has been a massive building project and it is hoped the work there can be completed over the next few months. There is absolutely no excuse for this wanton act of vandalism in our City Cemetery.
“There are bigger questions as a society to ask, such as why people think it’s OK to climb into the confines of the cemetery, which is consecrated ground, and go on a wrecking spree.I would appeal for anyone with information on this incident to bring it forward.”
This is a view shared by the SDLP’s Jim Clifford who said: “This is a shameful act of mindless vandalism in an area which is sacred to many people.
“Good progress was being made at expanding the cemetery and this will be a set-back to that important project being driven by Derry City Council. I strongly appeal to parents to be vigilant as to the whereabouts of their children, particularly over this summer holiday season, and for anyone with any information on who is responsible for this incident to pass it onto the police.”
Derry City Council said it was working with the contractors “to ensure the damage is minimised”.
Police said the vandalism took place between 3pm on Sunday and 7.30am on Monday.
A spokeswoman appealed for anyone who noticed suspicious activity on Sunday night to contact Strand Road Police Station on 0845 600 8000 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.