Tuesday 22 January 2019

'Arson' attack angers locals in Courtown

The former Ounavarra Hotel
The former Ounavarra Hotel

Brendan Keane

Residents and business owners in Courtown Harbour have expressed anger and concern over a suspected arson attack that occurred on a well-known local building.

The fire occurred in the Ounavarra Hotel at around 8 p.m. on Monday, July 9, and such is the concern of locals in the area that they contacted Gorey local authority over the matter.

In a statement issued to District Manager, Amanda Byrne, the residents and business owners highlighted that it took three hours for fire-fighters to get the blaze under control.

One of the concerned people, Michelle Ray, said there was an adverse knock-on affect because many of the residents and business people had experienced smoke damage to their properties.

The residents said they were put on standby for possible evacuation of their homes while the fire was being tackled - in case it couldn't be controlled.

'That was the instruction from the fire services on the evening of the event,' said Ms Ray.

'This building has been vacant for 14 years and nothing has been done to ensure that it is safe,' said the residents in their statement.

'Last year there were three fires in this building, with one having a sofa set alight on top of the building,' they added.

'We are very concerned that this is something that could happen at any time,' said Ms Ray.

The residents are worried about the possible consequences if a fire occurs or is started in the early hours of the morning.

'People's lives are at risk and who is going to take responsibility for the consequences of such an event?' claimed the residents.

The residents and business people say they are concerned that with the current dry, hot weather repeat fires in the building could prove fatal.

They also highlighted that anti-social behaviour involving drink and drugs is another issue of concern at the vacant building.

The owners of the property erected fencing at the site to keep people out but the residents say it's inadequate and does not prevent access to the building.

Those concerned are calling on the local authority to pursue ways of preventing such incidents from occurring.

The owners of the property, when contacted by this newspaper, said the recent incident happened after access to the site was gained by people removing 'part of the lower fence'.

'We have repaired that since so it won't happen again,' said Tom O'Loughlin.

He also said there are long term plans for the development of the site and that discussions have taken place with the local authority.

'We have been in contact with the Council about our long term plans,' said Mr O'Loughlin.

'The fencing was removed at the lower end and it seems to have been kids burning rubbish,' he added.

Wexford County Chief Fire Officer, Paul L'Estrange said the fire service was first alerted to the incident at 8.32 p.m. and arrived at the scene 13 minutes later, at 8.45 p.m.

Two fire appliances attended the scene and remained there until just before 1 a.m.

Gorey Guardian