Friday 22 November 2019

GAA club defiant after clubhouse is gutted during a series of arson attacks

The scene at St Saviours GAA club in Waterford this morning. Twitter credit: @BrianNolan1974
The scene at St Saviours GAA club in Waterford this morning. Twitter credit: @BrianNolan1974

Conor Kane

Locals in a tight-knit area of Waterford city have been left shocked by a number of arson attacks which have left two important community resources badly damaged.

Gardaí are investigating the causes of the early morning fires at St Saviour’s GAA Club and the Ballybeg Youth Resource Centre, both in the large Ballybeg housing estate on the edge of Waterford, which caused tens of thousands of euros worth of damage.

However, a spokesman confirmed that the incidents were “very suspicious”. Local gardaí have been carrying out door-to-door inquiries in the area since Saturday morning and trying to piece together CCTV footage, while technical experts have carried out forensic examinations of the scenes.

They are also appealing for help from the local community in relation to gathering information about the incidents.

The first incident happened at about 12 midnight when a fire was started in a room at the youth resource centre and it’s believed that the culprits returned about two hours later and ignited two more fires, effectively destroying the building. “It will have to be demolished,” one local said.

The youth centre is used by about 200 young people for various projects and is also home to four community youth workers, two Community Employment staff, five Youthreach students and up to 20 volunteers.

The fire is believed to have destroyed 12 computers as well as camping equipment and sports equipment.

About half-a-kilometre away at St Saviour’s GAA Club, a fire was started at 4.30am by arsonists who had to climb a high fence and break down a steel door to gain access.

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The ground floor of the clubhouse was badly damaged in the blaze, including old photographs and other memorabilia collected by members over the years, although the first floor was left reasonably unscathed apart from incurring smoke damage.

“It’s like a death in the family,” local Sinn Féin city councillor John Hearne said. He appealed to other clubs in the area to donate any unneeded sports equipment to either of the Ballybeg centres, who will now have to try and replace what was lost in the fires.

“The community is completely saddened and devastated,” according to Cllr Hearne who was on the scene at around 7am on Saturday morning and was greeted by shocked youth workers, sports coaches and club members.

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