Calls for more security for a Lurgan graveyard have been made after 13 historic headstones were vandalised.
History enthusiast Jim Conway who has a specific interest in Shankill Graveyard, spoke of his devastation after discovering the ‘wanton destruction’.
Jim, who regularly carries out history tours at the cemetery, said these headstones are of historic importance and irreplacable.
Police said they believe the 13 headstones were pushed over with many badly broken over at the Deans Walk cemetery over the last week.
Mr Conway said: “I am devastated - gutted. I have been running charity tours around this graveyard for years.
“My father used to volunteer to help the old caretaker Fred McCambley look after the graveyard. I feel as if I have let them down.
“This graveyard dates back to neolithic times. It was a monastic site in the fourth century.
“The whole history of Lurgan can be traced to this town,” he said.
“I have been using the graveyard to carry out cross community work and it is such a beautiful place.
“Now I am calling for security cameras to be installed to protect the graveyard,” he said.
“I have been asking for this for years and I hope that some of the millionsof pounds from the heritage fund will be earmarked for Shankill graveyard where the history and heritage really is rather than the centre of town.”
Mr Conway said he was heartened by the cross community support and said he had been contacted by politicians from all the parties offering their support.
“I had been very disheartened when I saw all the destruction.
“But when I got call after call from parties right across the politicial spectrum, it gave me hope,” said Mr Conway who said he had received support from Sinn Fein, SDLP, Ulster Unionists, DUP and PUP.
“They have all offered to back my calls for security cameras at the graveyard,” he said.
Shankill Cemetery is home to some iconic and historically important graves.
It is home to the famous Marjorie McCall, the lady from the mid-18th century of whom it is said on her gravestone “Lived once, twice buried”.
A PSNI spokesperson said they believed 13 headstones were pushed over, some of which were broken, at the Deans Walk cemetery over the last five days.
Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said: “This is a cemetery; a graveyard - a place for quiet reflection to peacefully pay respects to loved ones who are no longer with us.
“I cannot understand the thinking behind the actions of those who caused this thoughtless, criminal vandalism.
“Police will be working with the community to prevent this behaviour and stop further hurt being caused to families and friends of those whose lives are remembered here. This is not acceptable behaviour.
“I would appeal to anyone who has any information about this criminal damage to contact police at Lurgan on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 499 23/05/18. Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”