SF slams McCusker for ‘sectarian gauntlet’ comment

A SINN Fein councillor has lashed out after another councillor said worshippers had to run a gauntlet of sectarianism at Craigavon Presbyterian Church.

Cllr Mark O’Dowd called on Ulster Unionist Cllr Colin McCusker to withdraw comments made after the sign at the church was painted green white and orange.

Cllr McCusker had said: “This building and its congregation have been living under siege for decades. The brave families that attend and support this Christian Church have run the gauntlet of attack from mindless sectarian thugs who don’t, to coin a phrase, ‘want a prod about the place’.

“This church and its congregation have been worn down after years of relentless sectarianism, and I can only imagine that this latest attack might well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

However Cllr O’Dowd, who is a representative for the Central area, refuted the UUP councillor’s remarks.

“Community relations in Brownlow are good and are probably the best there are in any area of the Borough,” said Cllr O’Dowd. “It is unfortunate that any elected representative would make irresponsible comments at this time without actually checking the facts.

“I personally contacted the PSNI to discover if there was any foundation to these allegations and was advised there were no issues or concerns surrounding worshipers going to or from church. The PSNI did confirm that there had been a several isolated issues of vandalism in the vicinity of the church but they didn’t believe these were sectarian.

“Residents living in the vicinity of the church have contacted me and expressed their disgust and anger at Cllr McCusker’s irresponsible comments. They are distressed by the UUP Councillor’s attempt to introduce sectarian conflict into the area.”

A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police in Brownlow are investigating recent incidents of graffiti at a number of locations in Brownlow. Police have spoken to church representatives, local councillors and partner agencies in relation to the graffiti.

“Police do not discuss the nature or content of conversations with specific individuals. Police would appeal to anyone with information in relation to these incidents to contact them on 0845 600 8000.”