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NI First Minister signals support for places of worship security fund

by Tola Mbakwe

Christian public policy charity CARE NI has received the support of the DUP for help to be provided to places of worship which are at risk of being attacked in Northern Ireland. This included support for the introduction of a Places of Worship Security Scheme. 
The charity's director Tim Martin and policy officer Mark Baillie met with First Minister Arlene Foster and other MLAs on Wednesday to discuss CARE NI's calls for consideration of a Places of Worship Security fund to be created, mirroring a similar fund available in England and Wales.  
During the meeting, the FM said her party supported additional support for places of worship which are at risk of attack, including the idea of introducing a Places of Worship Security Scheme. She indicated the DUP would work to see additional support provided.  
The meeting comes after CARE NI published disturbing research following a freedom of information request which showed places of worship in NI had been attacked more than 600 times in just five years.  
In England and Wales, a Places of Worship Security Scheme already exists and places of worship can bid for additional funding for extra security.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has said it will introduce a similar scheme there, leaving Northern Ireland as the only part of the UK not to operate the scheme. 

Baillie said:  "We are reaching out to politicians across the spectrum here in Northern Ireland and are optimistic there's real support for action to support places of worship which are impacted by attacks.

"It's vital churches and other places of worship are protected from further harm. Our research highlights how common it is for a church to be targeted in acts of violence and vandalism.   
"Freedom to worship without fear of being attacked is a human right and one we're determined to protect." 

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