Dunanney Centre managers have vowed to keep the community facility ‘open for business’ in spite of a petrol bomb attack on Saturday morning.
The attack is the second to have occurred at the centre in recent months, after its boiler house was damaged in an arson attack causing thousands of pounds worth of damage on April 17.
Police sources said that the latest incident, which occurred at around 12.10am on Saturday July 12, also saw a number of stones thrown and windows smashed at the centre. No one was injured during the incident, and the blaze was extinguished by the fire brigade.
Centre manager Vicky Moore told The Times: “We are determined to do what we can to offer as normal a service as possible to the public but we are having to be creative in how we use the building. The CAB has relocated some of its call centre staff downstairs and a scheme called ‘We’re the business’ for young people who are not in education, employment or training has been relocated to another part of the building. We have also put a course with the NWRC back a week.
“I can’t believe this has happened a second time. On this occasion it has more of an impact-the previous attack damaged the heating and boiler. This time the whole first floor has been smoke damaged, there is fire damage, the windows were smashed with some very big stones. There were 10-12 windows smashed to get the petrol bombs in and there is structural damage. The frames of eight windows are destroyed, a wall is destroyed, as is plaster work and brick work, lighting and internet access. It is a scene of devastation in the foyer.”
The centre, which still has no heating due to the damage sustained in the April attack, uses proceeds from the hire of rooms to cover staff and running costs. Staff fear that fire damage could threaten this funding source.
Ms Moore says she has no idea why the cross-community centre is being targeted. She continued: “I can’t understand what they are displeased about-we run and host things that are targeted at the most needy people -what is their objection to that? I am sure the people who have done this have used our services and their family have used the services. Why can’t they just let us get on with our work?”
CAB Centre Manager Pat Hutchinson says that her organisation was protected from the worst of the damage by fire doors, meaning that its services are still in operation. She added: “It is an absolute mess and beggars belief that a centre used by 200 people a day, from babies to pensioners, should be attacked. It’s disgusting. I don’t know why they are targeting the building-they are really targeting their own community who we help and look after. It’s an attack against them as well as the centre. We are defiant-we are not going to close this centre. We have pulled together, the staff has been amazing and are working under very difficult circumstances.”
The incident has attracted cross-party condemnation from elected representatives. DUP MP Nigel Dodds condemned the attack as ‘repulsive’. He stated: “Those responsible have attacked a key component of the Rathcoole community. The facility offers important services to the folks living in this area. Those who attacked this facility are not only criminal but clearly couldn’t care less about the people in the area.
“It would be fitting that those responsible for this action would be brought before the courts.”
Alliance Councillor Billy Webb also expressed his anger, saying: “I am horrified that anybody would seek to damage this community centre. It is used by many people throughout the area. The Dunanney centre is a vital resource for Rathcoole.
“Those who carried out this attack are just a bunch of thugs who have no respect for the local community. They must be urgently apprehended by the Police, so I would encourage those with any information about this attack to contact the PSNI.”
Police are appealing for anyone who has information to contact them on the non-emergency number 101. Or to provide information anonymously, can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.