Belfast Telegraph

Police U-turn on GAA club fire

Arson probe referred to Ombudsman

By Donna Deeney

Londonderry's most senior PSNI officer has referred the investigation of a fire at a GAA clubhouse to the Police Ombudsman, after officers missed potentially vital clues.

The fire at Sean Dolan's GAA clubhouse in Derry broke out in the early hours of December 28 and initially was deemed by the police to have been started accidentally.

However after club members viewed CCTV footage they had given the PSNI, they discovered it shows two figures outside the club and a series of flashes.

In an embarrassing U-turn, the PSNI is now treating the fire as arson. Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin confirmed that following a review of the initial investigation into the fire, he has now referred the matter to the office of the Police Ombudsman, which will carry out an independent examination of police actions.

The club had been discussing the possibility of lodging a complaint with the Ombudsman about the way the police handled the initial investigation, although club treasurer Jim McDaid said that is not their main focus.

He said: “That is something the legal advisors of the county board and the Ulster board are dealing with, but the important thing is it is now being investigated and the club is co-operating fully with that investigation. We are concentrating our efforts in getting the players back on the field and getting the club rebuilt and look to our 70th anniversary.”

The news came as the club announced its decision not to disband. Members met with the Derry County GAA Board earlier this week where it was agreed the club will continue and will re-build its clubhouse. Some members felt that in light of the attack it would be better to disband but this was over-ruled.

Instead a plan to mark the club's 70th anniversary was agreed. Mr McDaid said all members would be on the pitch at Piggery Ridge next week to begin training for the new season.

He added: “People have been hurt there was an attack on the club but there were people at the meeting who have been involved with Sean Dolan's for over 40 years and we felt it was important we kept our presence in Creggan.

“We are one of the oldest clubs in the city and we have 200 members so next week we will have full training on our home pitch to let the community know we are not leaving and are committed to the young people of Creggan. We need to get the heart and soul back into the club after what has effectively been an attack on us.”

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