It’s “business as usual” - that’s the message from staff at Rathcoole’s Dunanney Centre, despite a series of sickening attacks on the building.
On Monday afternoon (August 18), around 200 people gathered at Rathmullan Drive in a show of public support for the busy community facility , the organisations that use it and the vital services they provide.
The rally, which was attended by centre users, politicians, church leaders, community representatives and local residents, was organised following four attacks on the building in as many months.
Two arson attacks, the latest coming on July 12, caused extensive damage to the property, leaving a repair bill of around £150,000.
And in the latest incident last week, sectarian slogans were painted on the external walls of the building.
Pat Hutchinson, chairperson of Rathcoole Churches Community Group, which owns and runs the centre, said that she and her colleagues have been “overwhelmed by the level of support” offered to them by organisations and individuals following the latest act of intimidation. And she thanked everyone who turned out for Monday’s rally to show their support for the centre and its staff.
“It was so encouraging. It was really, really nice to see so many people there. So many people had been saying to us that they wanted to show their support for us and were asking how they could do that, so the rally came about as a result of that.
“It was lovely to have so much support from the people and all the political support we got. And there were a lot of other people who’ve said to us that they would have been there but they couldn’t make it or didn’t know it was on.”
Mrs Hutchinson, who is also district manager of Newtownabbey Citizens Advice Bureau, which is based in the centre, added: “We have to get the message out there that we are open for business and that the people of Rathcoole want us here.”
Centre manager, Vicky Moore described the level of public support at Monday’s demonstration as “very encouraging for staff.”
“We are absolutely delighted. We believed that we had that much support in the community, but when you actually see it it makes all the difference,” she told the Times.
Ms Moore said that repairing the damage caused by the arson attack in July may take some time, but stressed that it is “business as usual” at the centre.
“It may mean that we need to think creatively about how people access everything that we deliver from the centre, but we will make sure that we do that to the best of our ability and that people don’t miss out,” she added.
• More coverage in this week’s Times
• Watch the video from Monday’s rally by clicking here.