Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Arsonists are blamed for blaze at school

'Minimal damage' caused in attack

POLICE probing a fire at a state-of-the-art school being built in Londonderry's Waterside today said they believe arsonists were to blame.

POLICE probing a fire at a state-of-the-art school being built in Londonderry's Waterside today said they believe arsonists were to blame.

Minor structural damage was caused to the £12m Lisneal College facility just six months after construction began on the 22-acre site at Crescent Link.

The arsonists struck just days before the retirement of headmaster John Magowan, who officially stepped down yesterday after decades of work in the city's educational institutions.

Deputy Mayor and Ulster Unionist Mary Hamilton - who is also on the Board of Governors at Lisneal - has blamed the same gang who torched the new renal unit at nearby Altnagelvin Hospital in March.

Police say that £6,500 worth of damage was caused after building materials caught alight following the arson attack on Sunday afternoon.

And they confirmed today they are treating the blaze as arson.

A spokesman said yesterday: "We are now treating the blaze as malicious."

Firefighters from Crescent Link fire station, less than a mile from the new school, spent an hour tackling the fire and said the damage was limited because of the proximity of the fire station.

Bertie Faulkner, a member of the Board of Governors and a driving force behind the new school - a merger of the Faughan Valley and Clondermot High Schools - played down the damage.

"The damage was minimal and it is not going to slow the project or the opening down," he said.

"It is still full steam ahead for Lisneal."

Earlier this year, about £900,000 worth of damage was caused to the long awaited renal facility at nearby Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry when it was torched.

Mary Hamilton (UUP) has linked the two attacks.

"It is possible that the same group could be behind this," she said.

"It is awful that this kind of thing should happen before the school is even built."

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