A group broke into an Irish Carmelite monastery during the daytime, vandalized its chapel and shouted slurs at the elderly nuns who lived there on Monday.
“The poor sisters who live there play such an integral part of life in the area and it’s outrageous that a small group of thugs would target them like this,” a local parishioner who regularly goes to the chapel told the news site Dublin Live.
The incident happened after 1 p.m. on November 11 at Star of the Sea Monastery in Malahide, about 10 miles north of Dublin City Center.
Fr. Jimmy McPartland, co-parish priest at the nearby St. Anne’s Church in Portmarnock, announced the incident to parishioners during a morning Mass.
McPartland said the vandals had “desecrated” the chapel. The gang had shouted “very horrible things” about the nuns after the vandalism.
The parishioner told Dublin Live the priest was “visibly upset” in reporting the news and the congregation was “shocked.”
“He mentioned that the thugs had said very offensive things about the nuns and there was possibly racist graffiti,” the parishioner reported.
Police said they are investigating and no arrests have been made.
“Any vandalism is bad but on a group of elderly nuns is disgraceful,” Darragh O’Brien, a Deputy to the Dáil from Malahide, equivalent to a Member of Parliament, told Dublin Live.
“Unfortunately we’ve become used to burglaries and break-ins in the area, but this type of violation of a monastery—to desecrate a religious building—is shocking,” he added. “The effect this has on a group of lovely women—most of whom are elderly—will disgust people in the area.”
The incident will mean that the chapel, which is usually open to the public, will be locked and Massgoers will no longer be able to access it freely. Its 8:30 a.m. Mass will continue to be open to the public.
“The sad outcome of this is that those wishing to pray in the oratory at the convent can no longer do so freely,” the local parishioner told Dublin Live. “The chapel has always been open during the day for anyone who wanted to go in and pray or reflect. Now because of the actions of a few thugs, we can no longer use this beautiful place of worship freely, but must instead request a key.”
O’Brien, the local representative to Ireland’s parliament, has previously campaigned for more police resources in the area. After the incident, he called for a 24/7 police station to be restored to Malahide “to deter criminality.”
The Carmelite community moved to Malahide in 1975. The current monastic foundation resulted from a combination of two other monasteries in 2011, the monastery’s website said.