Those responsible for a second suspected arson attack at a GAA club have been branded “morons” by a senior DUP Assembly member.
Sports Minister Gregory Campbell was speaking after a clubhouse belonging to the Cookstown Fr Rocks team was extensively damaged in an early morning attack. The building, located at Convent Road, had been renovated earlier this year. It suffered serious scorch damage in the blaze.
A store-room was also gutted. The final repair bill could top £12,000, said club officials.
Club member and Tyrone star Owen Mulligan was among those who visited the scene yesterday morning. Police confirmed they were treating the blaze as suspicious, along with a fire which destroyed Edendork clubhouse near Dungannon on Saturday.
It is thought the fires may have been started in retaliation for recent fires at Orange halls. Mr Campbell said he condemned them “unequivocally and without reservation”.
“If the morons who seem to have a resentment and bitterness in them against either Orange halls or GAA halls see the consequence of their attacks — bigger and better premises built instead — maybe that will have an impact,” he said. “There will be a response by the community and those who attack the hall for whatever mischievous reason will see that it has backfired.”
The Fr Rocks club is the oldest in Co Tyrone. Speaking last night, chairman Damian Harvey said its members were determined not to let those responsible succeed.
“People can burn buildings but they will never destroy spirit,” he said. “This will only galvanise our members and hopefully we can get things up and running soon.
“We spent £100,000 on the club this year and when you go up there and see those efforts destroyed then it’s certainly gutting.”
The attack was widely condemned yesterday.
Mid-Ulster SDLP Assembly member Patsy McGlone said: “This is a club which has inspired such geniuses as Tyrone star Owen Mulligan and it's heart-wrenching to see that people are intent on tearing the life out of their local community.”