Friday 19 July 2019

Members 'just want to get going' again

Gardaí at the Brady Centre following the fire in the early hours of Friday
Gardaí at the Brady Centre following the fire in the early hours of Friday
Chairman Fergus Finlay speaking to the press on Friday

Staff were emotional and shocked as they attended the scene of a fire at Lakers which destroyed their building and all of their vehicles.

The blaze at the Brady Centre on Seapoint Road occurred in the early hours of Friday morning. Members of Bray Fire Service used a hydraulic platform to tackle the blaze. The unstable roof made it dangerous to enter.

The art room, training kitchen, storage, offices and other facilities were part of the destroyed premises.

Lakers is a sports and recreation club for 400 adults and children with an intellectual disability.

Chairman Fergus Finlay said that the fire is not being treated as malicious and investigations into its cause continue.

'It's important at Lakers that we don't turn people away. Unfortunately this morning we've been turning people away,' said Mr Finlay, speaking at the scene on Friday.

He said that staff had been phoning and emailing members all day.

'We have to figure out what the insurance story is, what the safety story is, and what we can do about alternative accommodation,' he said.

'I'm hoping the community will rally around. Just this morning the landlord has provided us with an office space. We can do all our communications at least.'

He said that transport is essential as a number of members are not able to travel unassisted and a selection of activities such as swimming, golf, and more, are held off-site.

'The buses are absolutely essential,' said Fergus, who had officially retired the previous day.

One of the buses was just a few months old. Some members had fundraised with a trek in Croatia, and the Lucinda Sullivan trust contributed.

Service manager Sandra Fagan, also the parent of a member, spoke about the importance of Lakers.

'Nobody comes here because they have to, it's their social hub,' she said. 'When members come here they pick what they like to do.'

She said that the staff at Lakers also love their jobs and take great pride in their work.

They hit the ground running as soon as news of the fire spread on Friday, and any activities possible are proceeding, including junior clubs and basketball at BIFE, golf and gym sessions, and anything off-site. Lakers have been offered a number of halls, and staff are currently considering all of their many options.

'They just want to get going,' said Sandra on the members' reaction to the fire. 'They've all been on the phone wondering when we'll be open.'

General Manager Jo Heath said that they are trying to salvage some kind of positivity.

'Obviously at a glance it's really shocking and so negative. Because our organisation is 30 years old next year, we've decided that all of our fundraising will now be focussed on raising funds for our own premises, because this one is rented. The most obvious way of turning this into a positive is just speeding up this whole process.'

Ian McGahon, election candidate for the Labour Party, works in the disabled service area, and spoke about the importance of the organisation.

'Lakers have provided huge service over so many years,' said Mr McGahon. 'I think the community will support them. The benefits are far reaching, and include increased confidence, physical and mental health and well-being, nurturing friendships, and enjoyment of life.'

Meanwhile, in the immediate aftermath of the fire, Deputy Stephen Donnelly called on the Government to ensure that Lakers had access to the funds it needs to rebuild.

'I'm very glad that Minister for Health Simon Harris came down to visit the club immediately after the fire and expressed his support. But what's needed now is action rather than words,' said Deputy Donnelly.

'It's now imperative that we get them the money they need to rebuild their fleet and reopen their base.

'What people need to bear in mind is that this isn't just a sports hall. It's a place where children and adults with intellectual disabilities can come together as a community. Where they and their families can support each other, create their own social network and build a whole way of life that wouldn't exist otherwise,' said Deputy Donnelly.

Bray People