THE MASONIC Hall in Greystones came close to burning to the ground in the early hours of Saturday morning when mindless vandals broke in and started up to eight fires.
The blaze erupted when the vandals set several sets of curtains on fire, possibly using pictures hanging within as kindling.
'They went to a lot of effort to get in,' said member of the Masonic Order William Fenton. 'They stripped off a section of the roof in an attempt to get in but failed to do so. They then used a tile to break the window.'
He said that it looked like a very deliberate attempt to destroy the building. 'They lit as many as eight fires. We have absolutely no idea why anybody would want to do that.'
The Mayor of Greystones, Cllr. George Jones, who was on the scene the following day, has condemned the attack. 'This type of vandalism cannot be tolerated,' he said, calling on anyone who may have seen anything unusual on Friday night to report matters to the Gardai in Greystones.
A passer-by noticed plumes of smoke coming from the hall at around 4 a.m. and contacted the emergency services who acted quickly to extinguish the blaze.
'We don't know who rang the fire brigade but we would like to know so that we can thank the chap,' said Mr. Fenton, adding that members are also very grateful to the fire service who saved the hall as well as gardaí who secured the building until such time as it could be boarded up.
There was no major structural damage but a lot of damage to décor and furniture. The Masons hope to have work done to restore their hall within the next few months and in the meantime expect to use members' homes for their meetings.