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hurt Grieving woman says ‘how dare anyone do this?’ as loyalist bomb hoax destroys mother’s funeral

'I was meant to be burying my mother today, and these eejits took that very special moment away from us'

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Fr John Graven carries out a funeral service in the car Park at Holy Cross Church in North Belfast due to a security alert in the nearby Houben Centre

Fr John Graven carries out a funeral service in the car Park at Holy Cross Church in North Belfast due to a security alert in the nearby Houben Centre

Fr John Graven carries out a funeral service in the car Park at Holy Cross Church in North Belfast due to a security alert in the nearby Houben Centre

A woman has told of her anger and hurt after her mother’s funeral service was interrupted by yesterday’s security alert.

Sheila McDonald said her family was devastated by the disruption to the Mass for her late mother, Bridie.

Her 14-year-old niece, who has special needs, was particularly upset at being unable to get into the church, she said.

“[We were] trying to explain to her why we couldn’t get into the chapel because silly men had left a dangerous object in the chapel,” Ms McDonald told the BBC.

She said special songs had been chosen for the Mass that they were not able to hear, adding: “There were prayers to be said by her grandchildren, so that was another moment taken away.

“It destroyed the whole day. Because you’re angry and you’re hurt, how dare anyone do this?

“This shouldn’t have happened in this day and age.

“I was meant to be burying my mother today, and these eejits took that very special moment away from us.”

Simon Coveney had been speaking at a north Belfast event, organised by the John and Pat Hume Foundation, about the importance of reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

He had told the audience: “The patient work of reconciliation and deepening of relationships does need to continue on our own island.”

However, just minutes into the speech he was interrupted and led away by security officials.

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, who was in attendance as a trustee of the John and Pat Hume Foundation, said those responsible were “faceless, nameless and brainless”. He said: “I was born and bred in this city and am proud to say so. I view what happened this morning with anger and disgust in equal measure.

“If you want to protect the Union, you should realise that denying free speech to a democratically elected minister from a neighbouring state plays directly into the Irish republican narrative.

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“Today was an own goal by faceless, nameless and frankly brainless individuals.”

Tim Attwood, who was moderating the discussion, said it was “very unfortunate that the event has been cancelled and more importantly the disruption to local community”.

He added: “The message of the minister in the short time he was speaking and of the John and Pat Hume Foundation is that you can only achieve your goals through peaceful and non-violent means.

“Those who think they can drag us back to those dark days are very much mistaken, they are long gone and this will only renew our efforts for peace and reconciliation and our work will continue.”

Professor Colin Harvey, who was at the event said: “This must stop, those responsible need to wise up and respect the fact that people in this society want peace.

“Dialogue, debate and discussion remain the only way forward.”

Local priest Fr Gary Donegan also spoke at the event and told Radio Ulster that Mr Coveney was about five minutes into the speech when it was interrupted.

“I saw the close protection team, beckoning towards me, and I was wondering what are they asking me for?

“They turned around and said to me that someone had been hijacked at gunpoint and had driven a van with an alleged device into the ground and we need to get the minister out of there and get the place evacuated.

“So immediately, we had to get the minister away.”

Church of Ireland Archbishop the Rev John McDowell described the incident as shameful.

“Peace and stability in Northern Ireland are maintained and advanced through good relationships at all levels within Ireland and across these islands, and there is no place for violence or the threat of violence in our society,” he said.

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