Arson attack at former County Wexford school just weeks after copper piping was ripped out of building by vandals
€7,000 has been spent rectifying anti-social damage to building
AN apparent attempt to burn down a former special school building in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, is under investigation with widespread condemnation of the incident expressed locally.
The former St Patrick’s Special School building has been targeted by people engaging in anti-social behaviour in the past, however, in the early hours of St Patrick’s morning someone broke into the building and in addition to ransacking the interior, lit three separate fires in an apparent attempt to burn it down.
In October the school was also broken into and completely ransacked.
The principal of St Patrick’s School, Lee Rogers, said he was notified about the incident by Enniscorthy Fire Service.
"The last time they broke in and they kind of ransacked the place," said Lee.
"They broke a few windows and threw a few things around," he added.
However, Lee said the people behind the shoebox appeal at Christmas had "done an amazing job” cleaning up the building.
"They cleaned the whole place up for us while they were using it and they did a really amazing job," said Lee.
"They did a great job, they tidied everything up, swept it all up and bagged up all the rubbish that was strewn around the place," he added.
Lee said that in January someone broke into the building and cut out a load of copper piping which resulted in the premises becoming flooded.
"Because of that the water and the electrics were turned off, because of all the water damage" he said.
"Then, I just got a call on Friday from the fire service to say that some people had broken in and they'd started these three fires," he said.
"Two of them were in bins but one was there in the portacabin and it burned through the floor and through the walls," he added.
"The fire service obviously put it out but I think we were very close to the whole place going up, you know."
Lee said it's hard to comprehend why anyone would do something like that and he said it's not worth trying to rationalise the thought process of someone who would deliberately try and burn the building down.
"There is no head space that you could get into where you could understand why someone would want to do this," he said.
In the incident earlier this year when the copper piping was stolen, it's believed a 25-year-old, a 16-year-old and a child aged around 10 were involved.
"What hope is there?" said Lee.
Unfortunately, such behaviour seems to be 'the norm' for a small minority of people, as Lee pointed out.
Having put the fire out on St Patrick’s Day the members of Enniscorthy fire service opened all the doors and windows in the building because it had been full of thick, dense smoke.
Lee went down to the building at around 8 a.m. that morning and boarded up a few of the windows that were smashed and closed the doors and other windows.
He said a couple of the doors had fallen and he nailed them shut, however, he admitted that if someone wants to break in somewhere they will.
"Locks are only there for honest people, really," he said. Lee said that while the damage itself is obviously frustrating he said it's the senseless and mindless nature of the incident that's most annoying.
"We are hoping to sell it in the next few months and at this stage you couldn't really use it for anything other than demolishing it," he said.
"The pipes are gone and a lot of the roof would be damaged from the water as a result of the last break-in and now you have smoke damage and that," he added.
Regrettably, even if the culprits are caught the reality is the school will have to foot the cost of the damage one way or another because even if it's covered by insurance, as Lee pointed out, the premium would sky rocket so either way the school will be left to pay for the senseless and needless damage caused by others.
Cllr Jackser Owens condemned the incident and said it was “disgraceful” that someone would deliberately try and burn down the building.
However, he said at this stage something needs to be done to either make the site properly secure or the building should be demolished.
He said if the whole building had caught fire it could have posed a danger to nearby residential houses.
"It has to be made secure because people are able to get in there and it doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened if the whole thing had gone up,” said Cllr Owens.
Enniscorthy gardaí are investigating the incident and anyone with information is asked to contact Enniscorthy Garda Station on 053 9242580. All information forwarded will be treated in strict confidence.