Former hospital where children were abused destroyed in blaze
Victims express relief as Lissue House in Lisburn is gutted in arson attack
A fire in a former hospital at the centre of an inquiry into child abuse is believed to have been started deliberately, police have said.
Firefighters were called to the blaze at Lissue House in Lisburn yesterday morning, where flames engulfed the two-storey former psychiatric hospital.
No-one was inside at the time, the Fire and Rescue Service said last night. A total of eight fire crews battled for more than seven hours before the flames were extinguished.
A PSNI spokesman added: "At this time it is thought the fire may have been started deliberately and detectives in Lisburn are appealing for witnesses."
Chris Donnelly (45) said it was a relief to see the building gone after he suffered abuse at the hands of staff there in the 1970s and 80s.
He was moved to Lissue aged nine in 1979, after suffering extreme bullying at primary school - but said he was subjected to more violence and abuse at Lissue, which wrecked his life.
"It's not that I agree that people should go around setting fire to buildings because I certainly don't," said Mr Donnelly, a father-of-one from Carrickfergus.
"Crime is wrong, arson is wrong and I don't agree to buildings being burnt down but the sight of Lissue burning down for a lot of victims will be a relief.
"It's a painful reminder of the abuse and the hell I went through there. It's exactly like Kincora.
"I now live in Carrickfergus so I don't have to go near it but I always thought that I would like to see it just once to see what other memories it brought back.
"But I've never managed to bring myself to do it.
"For others who were there, they tell me they do have to drive past or live near it and it's a painful memory they couldn't escape from.
"It was a listed building but whoever set fire to it has brought some relief to victims of abuse there."
Former patients of the psychiatric hospital in Co Antrim have alleged they were the victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in the 1980s and 1990s.
Six nurses at Lissue House and Forster Green hospital in Belfast were accused of abuse, and allegations were made against members of the security forces.
Claims of abuse at Lissue are being investigated by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.
Kelly Lawrie, a 42-year-old mother from Belfast was also a resident in the unit after being a branded a "wild child" by social services in 1982.
"It sounds awful to say that I am pleased that it has been razed to the ground but that's how a lot of victims feel," she said. "I wouldn't say I felt happy but for a lot of victims we wanted it pulled down and that was never going to happen.
"I don't know how it started, whether it was arsonists or accidental and I don't condone crime but the crimes that went on in that place were worse than went on outside it.
"You never get over it, sights, sounds, smells that remind you, it triggers something in you and you relive the abuse."