Belfast Telegraph

Arsonists who torched school 'attacked own community'

By Staff Reporter

Vandals who torched a disused secondary school have been condemned.

The blaze at Newtownabbey Community High in the sprawling Rathcoole estate was reported to police on Saturday afternoon.

It is understood classrooms were damaged and equipment stolen.

Condemning the incident, local UUP councillor John Scott said he was angered and frustrated.

"I was greatly saddened and angry to learn that the old Newtownabbey Community High School site was badly damaged in an arson attack on Saturday.

"Those responsible have attacked their own community and denied their own people access to a community asset.

"Local people will share my anger and frustration at this senseless act."

North Belfast Ulster Unionist spokesman Robert Foster also hit out at what he described as a "senseless act".

"For some time now the Ulster Unionist Party has been pressing the Education Authority to allow the local Rathcoole community to make use of the premises until the Education Authority decides what the site should be used for in the longer term," he said.

"Had this course of action been followed, we might have avoided the current scenario whereby anti-social elements have managed to destroy the facility.

"My feeling is one of absolute frustration at the senselessness of this act."

Last night police in Newtownabbey appealed for information in connection with the arson attack.

Sergeant Adrian Keon said: "Police received reports shortly after 4.15pm of a fire at the site of the former school and attended the scene along with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. Extensive damage was caused to some of the mobiles, and some building equipment was stolen by the perpetrators.

"I would appeal that anyone with information contact Newtownabbey station on 101, quoting reference 1003 17/06/17, or, if they wish to remain anonymous, the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

Originally opened as Hopefield Secondary Modern in the early 1960s, Newtownabbey Community High School merged with Monkstown Community School in 2015 to form Newtownabbey Community College.

The Rathcoole site was closed soon after the merger.

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