Derry parish centre attacked over three nights as renovations carried out
Parishioners at St Joseph's church in Londonderry have voiced their anger at vandals who caused an estimated £25,000 of damage to their parish centre.
The premises, which sits at the heart of the Galliagh community, is currently undergoing a £300,000 renovation.
When complete it will be the base for a Franciscan Friary of Renewal project offering support to people suffering from addiction and homelessness.
Over the course of three nights a number of attacks have been carried out, including the burning of stage curtains and wanton destruction to the inside of the parish centre. One man who did not want to be named but who helped in the clean-up said he was seething with anger when he saw the destruction.
He said: "If ever there was a place that needed the help of the Friars, it is Galliagh because there is little or nothing for the young people living here."
"So many young people are addicted to one thing or another but there's not much help for them, but the Friars are doing their best. They are actually doing good and this centre, when it is finished, it will do some good," he continued.
"I'd heard there had been damage done so I came over to see for myself and I was disgusted when I looked around at the mess.
"People are angry, there was no call for this. This is beyond a bit of craic and whoever did this needs to wise up."
The centre had been handed over to members of the friary last year as a base for their support work with people suffering from addiction and homelessness.
Funding to renovate the facility came for the most part through the parish, collections and private donations to allow the friars to expand the work they do with young people in the area.
Parish Priest Fr Michael McCaughey said he had been heartened by the level of support from his parishioners.
He said: "What happened to the centre is very disheartening and sad to see but it is not reflective of the majority of the people of St Joseph's who have been very supportive.
"People are genuinely upset by what has happened and I share their upset.
"This will not hold the renovation project back, there is a very good team of people including locals who have stepped in and helped so the work can continue.
"This work will continue but the vandalism has to stop and I would appeal to whoever is doing this to stay away."
SDLP councillor Brian Tierney condemned the attack, saying: "The vandalism at the centre has run into the region of around £25,000 which will have to come from the overall £300,000 cost of the project.
"People are rightly annoyed at the damage which included stage curtains being set on fire, paint thrown all over the place, sinks and toilets smashed and a ceiling brought down.
"Not only are these people depriving their own community of a very important and necessary service but they are putting themselves in danger.
"I would appeal to everyone within the area who may have seen someone within the site to contact police."