£20,000 worth of damage caused in arson attack

Classrooms gutted in blaze

By Ciara Quinn

THE PRINCIPAL of a primary school in Poleglass says he and his staff are fighting a “tough battle” after vandals set fire to mobile classrooms.

St Kieran’s Primary School head Brian McAlea told the Andersonstown News that he was contacted on Friday night by the PSNI after the fire was discovered at around 8pm.

“Our school had been closed due to the mid-term break and we were all looking forward to coming back this week,” he said. “I got the call telling me that one of the school mobiles had been set on fire and that two other of the Portakabins had been broken into. When I got to the school there were about five jeeps outside along with the fire crew trying to stop the blaze.

“The fire spread across three of our mobiles including our Primary Six and Seven units. Our Primary Sevens are preparing for their transfer exam in two weeks’ time and the amount of disruption the actions of these people has caused is a disgrace.

“You are talking the guts of £20,000 worth of resources destroyed here. We had musical instruments, books and the school’s Gaelic football gear stored in those classrooms and they have all been ruined.”

Brian said the staff have been left feeling “totally deflated.”

“We try to keep this school as a little island and whatever is going on on the outside we try to not let it impact in here – but there it is, it has come in.

“We understand that this is a minority group doing this and we are thankful to our wonderful parents who have volunteered to come in and help us clean up the damage, but there is a knock-on effect of this wanton vandalism.”

Local Sinn Féin Councillor Stephen Magennis said those behind the attack on St Kieran’s were a “total disgrace”.

“Things are getting out of hand in and around the Poleglass area and we were on the ground on Friday night when the attack at St Kieran’s happened. We are trying very hard to get resources into the area for the young people but these actions are a complete hindrance to any long-term  plans we hope to bring in.”

Colin Neighbourhood Community Safety Officer and member of St Kieran’s Board of Governors, Michael George, said CCTV footage from the school security cameras is being examined by the PSNI.

“Things in Poleglass are coming to a head and it’s time for the community to take a stand – those behind this attack are not strangers and we hope the PSNI can get the culprits from the CCTV footage. At the end of the day these reckless actions are affecting our local children’s education – I hope this is a one-off.”

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