BY SIMON MARTELLI
As FIREWORKS lit the night sky over Britain on Monday, sectarian violence flared for a fourth night in East Belfast
By Tuesday morning, the number wounded by bullets in the latest wave of clashes had risen to five and a Catholic church had been badly damaged following hand-to-hand conflict between up to 1,000 Catholics and Protestants in the troubled Short Strand area. Fr Stephen McBrearty, who was watching the celebrations at Buckingham Palace on his television when Loyalists started smashing the windows of his church, said: "These people come from nowhere, intent on wanton destruction. So-called Protestants are trying to burn down my church. But these are totally ungodly people.
"They want to wreck and ruin and feel they have a divine right to do so. But I find it ironic that they are doing this for God and coun
try at a time when the Queen is extending her hand to all religions." Fr McBrearty is the parish priest of St Anthony's Catholic Church, situated about a mile away from the Catholic enclave which is outnumbered about ten to one by surrounding Protestants.
His church was hit by two arson attacks on Monday evening and a stone attack on the stain-glass window at the front of the church, resulting in extensive damage to the Gothic building. Fr McBrearty blamed the recent violence on Protestant paramilitaries who, he said, were flexing their muscles to make their presence felt among the Catholics.
"But they are strong people and they're not going to be walked over," he added.
Local leaders and the Northern Irish Police Service urged both communities to pull back from the "interface" in order to avoid "sleepwalking into the abyss" of mindless violence, as the chief constable put it.