28/08/2009

Plans Already Passed For Arson Hit School

Temporary mobile classrooms at an Irish speaking school in Co Down have been destroyed overnight in an arson attack.

However, it is believed that plans for a new, permanent building at Bunscoil Bheanna Boirche in Castlewellan are already being progressed and that planning permission has just been granted for the new development.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service were called to the scene at Circular Road, around four o'clock this morning.

The substantial fire took the crews around four hours to tackle and today both the police and fire service experts have launched an investigation.

The Northern Ireland Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has condemned the attack: "I am appalled that over the summer months, there have been a number of attacks on schools.

"These attacks are an affront to everyone in the community as they disrupt the education and well-being of our young people."

But she had better news and revealed that plans for a permanent building are already being progressed and "that planning permission has just been granted".

"In the meantime my Department is working closely with the South Eastern Education and Library Board and the school to make alternative arrangements as quickly as possible to minimise the impact on the education of the children," the Minister concluded.

Newcastle councillor Eamonn O'Neill has labelled the arson attack at Bunscoil Bheanna Boirche "malicious" but said it will not stop the school continuing its excellent record in Irish medium education.

The SDLP man, who sits on the school's management committee, said: "This is a downright disgusting act.
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"There are three mobile classrooms burnt in this cowardly attack. As a member of the management committee I know at first-hand the amount of hard work that has gone into this school and preparing it for the new school year. Let me make this clear, that hard work will continue.

"Unfortunately, lots of records and reports and the labours of years of hard work by both teachers and pupils have been destroyed but thankfully, over time, these can be replaced.

"We have just recently received planning permission for a new school build and a strategy has been put in place to expand and strengthen the school in the community. This attack, although a setback, will not deter that strategy," he continued.

A local Sinn Féin Councillor William Clarke has also commented: "It is a devastating blow to parents, the young people who attend the school and also teachers who are preparing the curriculum and are getting ready for the new school year".

Meanwhile, an AOH hall in Co Antrim has been trashed.

The Hibernians hall near Ballymoney was attacked by vandals and graffiti daubed on the walls on the property on the Rosnashane Road.

It was discovered at about 11.30am on Thursday morning and the police are treating the incident as a sectarian hate crime. It is understood a local GAA hall was also damaged by the vandals.

Across north Belfast, there have been a series of appartently tit-for-tat sectarian attacks on schools, the worst seeing the destruction of a primary school in Newtownabbey.

See: Razed Whitehouse School Reborn

(BMcC/GK)

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