The spray paint on the walls of the church, which had only recently being powerwashed.

Fire service praised for clearing church graffiti

Fire service help clean graffiti that appeared hours after 200th church celebration

Members of the Virginia Fire Service have been praised for helping clear shocking graffiti sprayed on the Church of Ireland in Virginia recently.

"Very grateful for the help our local fire crew gave on a wet Monday evening to try and help begin removing what is proving stubborn graffiti," church leaders posted on social media. "Thank you not only for this act of service in our community but for what you do every day for us all."

The vandalism appeared only hours after the congregation had gathered to celebrate the 200 centenary of their church. Parishioners awoke the following morning to find graffiti sprayed on the church. ‘Art is not a crime’ and ‘if you can’t do art, don’t try’ were among the phrases sprayed on the building in the centre of the town following the service on Sunday, September 26.

What made the incident even more aggravating for locals was that the church had only been power washed and cleaned after generous donations from parishioners.

“We gathered for a joint Harvest and 200th anniversary celebration on Sunday,” said Canon Craig McCauley, Rector of the Virginia Group of Parishes. “The Church probably hasn’t looked as well in many, many years,” he said, “so you can imagine when we discovered the graffiti on Monday...”

Canon McCauley says there’s widespread disappointment among parishioners, particularly those who donated and gave their time to clean and prepare the building for the weekend’s celebrations.

He says he’s touched by the response of the community. A post on social media garnered offers of help to clean up and remove the spray paint.

“Very disappointed and angry at this disgraceful disfigurement of such a beautiful building in the heart of our community. I hope the guards have some luck with catching the criminals who did this,” one local summed up the sentiment of the people.

“We see ourselves as very much part of the community and work hard to be part of the community,” remarked Canon McCauley.

“The community works hard, whether it is the Virginia Development Association or Tidy Towns or other groups who work hard to make Virginia better overall,” he said.

Gardaí have confirmed they are investigating the incident, treating it as criminal damage.

Anyone with information is being asked to contact Bailieborough Garda Station on 042-9694570.

The church’s proximity to the town makes it a popular spot for walkers, as evidenced by the number of people who pass while we speak.

Canon McCauley says he hopes this is something that will continue going forward, given how important it was for people to have open space during the Covid lockdowns.

It’s not the first time vandalism or criminal damage have been carried out at the church, with its proximity to the town centre making it an easy target.

Windows have been broken and graffiti sprayed in previous incidents.

The church made national news last Christmas when 52 Christmas trees were erected in the grounds and lit up in a spectacular display.

Again, the support of the local community and businesses was central in the endeavour, with over €1,400 raised for charity through a GoFundMe page alone.

Further developments are expected in the group of parishes later this month with the opening of new playing facilities at Billis National School.

A new carpark is also part of the project.

“At the moment they’re just for the school but we’re hoping that that can also be a community resource we can open,” he remarks.