A VIOLENT gang targeting the homes of Protestants will not divide the community, a clergyman has said.
Gardai are investigating a possible sectarian link to seven break-ins at homes and schools in Co Donegal. Aggravated burglaries over the past 11 days have left several elderly victims badly shaken.
The incidents have taken place over a wide geographical area and would have involved a degree of local knowledge, according to a local TD.
In four of the incidents, the perpetrators threatened their victims with knives. Three were pensioners, while a fourth was a middle-aged farmer.
It is more than 20km between some of the incidents, all of which took place in rural communities in St Johnston, Convoy, Raphoe and Drumoghill in east Donegal.
"The people behind these incidents are the scum of the earth," Church of Ireland minister Rev David Crooks told the Irish Independent.
"If there is a sectarian element to what these people are doing, then I can tell them they will not divide our community.
"Everyone in this area works closely together. We are a united community. We will all be praying that gardai catch those responsible and when they do those who have been doing this should be locked up and the key thrown away.
"Unfortunately, they'll probably get bail and will be back out terrorising people again."
Between raids last week, the gang travelled 15km to the Royal and Prior Secondary School in Raphoe, where several rooms were vandalised.
The school is run by the Church of Ireland but pupils come from all religious backgrounds.
It is understood gardai are studying CCTV footage from the school as part of an intensive investigation. Patrols have been stepped up in the area as a result.
A neighbour of one victim, a Protestant pensioner in St Johnston whose vehicle was stolen and burnt out, said: "We feel under siege. The fact that the victims have been Protestants is very worrying for the community here."
Gardai in Letterkenny have appealed for information.