Political and community representatives have hit out at those behind a ‘deliberate ignition’ fire at a newly opened Indian restaurant in Glengormley.
It is understood the Mama Masala restaurant was targeted shortly after midnight.
The eatery, which is on the site of the former Royal Thai Chinese Restaurant, officially opened to the public yesterday.
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) responded to a call at 12:06 am, only hours after it had closed following its official opening.
Two appliances from Glengormley Fire Station tackled the blaze. A NIFRS spokesperson said: “Firefighters dealt with a fire in a takeaway. Deliberate ignition. Incident was dealt with at 1:17am.”
Condemning those responsible, Alliance representative, Cllr John Blair said: “This is devastating for those who have started and invested in this new restaurant, as well as the staff employed there.
“There is thankfully no pattern for such events in the area. That does not take away from the seriousness of this instance.
“I would appeal to anyone who lives in the area or who might have been in the area at approximately midnight last night, who saw anything that they feel might be possibly relevant to contact the PSNI on 101 or Crimestoppers.”
Hitting out at those behind the attack, UUP representative, Cllr John Scott said: “This is absolutely disgraceful.
“The owner is trying to earn a living and has spent a lot of money to get this restaurant open and it is a disgrace that it has been attacked, especially on its first night.
“This is not what the people of Glengormley want. If anyone has any information about this, I would urge them to contact the police or they can call me.”
Kathy Wolff of the Community Relations Forum has known the owner of the restaurant for a number of years.
Speaking from the restaurant this morning, she said: “It is a shame that someone opens a new business and it is attacked like this on the very first night of it being open to the general public.
“They have worked so hard to bring a business to the area and it is disgraceful that this has happened.
“If anyone knows anything, please contact the PSNI.”
Urging anyone with information to contact the police, SDLP representative, Cllr Noreen McClelland said: “So very sad to see a new business targeted by arsonists. Mama Masala, Glengormley opened its doors to the public only last night and this morning the owner, family members and staff stand devastated outside their premises waiting until the police finish their investigations so they can go inside and see the damage that has been caused to their restaurant by the fire.
“When I spoke to them outside, I could see how heartbroken they were. One day delighted at having achieved a beautiful new restaurant and the next surveying the fire damage caused by mindless individuals. This is totally unacceptable and we need to find out who is responsible and I would ask anyone with any information to get in touch with the PSNI.”
Branding the attack “unacceptable”, Sinn Féin representative, Cllr Michael Goodman said: “Last night the newly opened restaurant appears to have been deliberately set on fire. It is my understanding that the police have not yet uncovered the motive behind the attack.
“This arson attack was wrong and must be strongly condemned and I urge anyone with information about this incident to bring it forward to the police.
“This behaviour is unacceptable and has no place in our society.”
Commenting on the Mama Masala Glengormley Facebook page, a spokesperson for the restaurant said: “Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, Mama Masala, our Glengormley site will be closed until further notice.
“For all booking enquiries, please direct message to us and we will try respond as soon as possible.
“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”
The spokesperson added: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support and well wishes!
“We can assure you this obstacle will not deter us nor hold us back and you will see our doors open in the near future. We will keep you updated via our social media pages.”