Political leaders condemn arson attack on Presbyterian church in Belfast

First Minister Arlene Foster describes attack as "senseless hate crime"

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Political leaders in Northern Ireland have condemned an overnight arson attack on a Belfast church.

Police said the Presbyterian church and a nearby hall sustained considerable damage in the fire.

Sunday morning services at the Saintfield Road church were called off to allow investigators examine the building.

A church spokesperson said it was the second such attack in one week, after an earlier blaze broke out on Thursday night.

In a Facebook post, they wrote: "Due to a second arson attack of greater severity taking place in the early hours of Sunday morning, the entire church building and halls are strictly out of bounds.

“Please stay away from the church as investigations are still underway.”

'Senseless'

First Minister Arlene Foster tweeted her sadness at the news, calling the attack a "senseless hate crime".

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described the incident as "despicable". 

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire said: "I am shocked and saddened to hear of the disgraceful attack on Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church and hall.

"My thoughts are with its parishioners who will be devastated by this news."