The Bishop of Derry has appealed to local people to respect the sanctity of churches and cemeteries in the city.
Dr Seamus Hegarty made the call following a break in at St Columba’s Church, Long Tower, on Wednesday night, and after it emerged that security guards are to be employed at the City Cemetery in a bid to stop underage drinking and anti-social behaviour there.
At the Long Tower, thieves broke into the Church before ransacking ornate candle boxes on the altar looking for money.
Both incidents sparked shock and anger in the local community.
In recent weeks, residents living close to the lower entrance to the City Cemetery on Lone Moor Road have said crowds of up to 100 young people have been gathering at the bottom of the graveyard on Friday and Saturday nights, drinking and leaving the area littered with bottles, cans, and blue bags.
As a result, security guards will be in place in the area for the next two weekends in order to stop the young people from gathering, the ‘Journal’ has learned.
The Bishop of Derry, Most Rev Dr Seamus Hegarty, appealed for people to treat the cemetery with respect. “Respect for the dead and, in particular cemeteries, has long been a characteristic of our society.
“The City Cemetery is often a place of comfort for people who have been bereaved, where many visit and care for their family graves.
“I call on everyone to continue to show the respect that this important place deserves in our city,” he said.
A spokesperson for Derry City Council said it is currently reviewing security measures at the City Cemetery. “The Council is committed to ensuring the Cemetery is a place for reflection and is treated with respect.”
Local councillor Patricia Logue said; “Following the story appearing in the Journal earlier this week I was contacted by a number of local residents who have had to live with this within earshot of their homes. It’s hoped that measures can be put in place to resolve this in the short term.
“As a society there are bigger questions to ask such as why people think it is OK to climb into the confines of the cemetery on a Friday night with a carryout of alcohol,” she said.