Priest 'will pray' for teenagers accused of damaging Magherafelt church artefacts

A Catholic priest says he will pray for three boys accused of damaging artefacts during a sectarian incident at his Magherafelt church

Fr. John Gates, parish priest at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, says he feels sorry for the youths.

On Saturday afternoon, he was walking to the King Street church when he saw the boys pulling a defibrillator from the wall of the parish community centre.

Fr. Gates confronted the group, but they verbally abused him and threw an object at him. He says some of the abuse was sectarian.

When he got to the main church building members of his congregation told him that a number of boys had damaged items inside including an internal door and an altar microphone.

Candles were broken, a floral display was destroyed, and a bible and other holy books were strewn on the floor.

The police were called and three boys were quickly identified and arrested.

Two of them - aged 11 and 15 - have appeared in court in Coleraine. A District Judge released them on bail but with the condition that they stay away from Magherafelt town centre.

The boys are in residential care, but the judge was told that police in Magherafelt regard them as "out of control".

The third boy (13) who was arrested is due before a court next month.