A cherished community building has been ransacked just days after it was attacked by arsonists.
This incident of vandalism and theft took place on Wednesday July 13, at Barron Hall on the Antrim Road in Glengormley, less than five days after the building was torched by arsonists, in a suspected sectarian attack.
Kathy Wolff, co-ordinator of the Newtownabbey Community Relations Forum, based in the building, said: “They broke in through the back sometime between 11.30am and 3.30pm (July 13). None of the neighbours would have been able to see them get in this way. They took anything left that was worth stealing — and we were still waiting for the insurers to come around and assess the damage from the arson.
“There’s nothing left for them to assess now. They completely gutted what was left of the building too — kicking down ceilings, ripping things up, and trashing what they could not take.
“This is a shared community venue — everyone uses it. We let it out any time to anyone — there are no barriers as to who wants to use the building for a community purpose.
“I think those who did this think it’s an Orange Hall. It’s never been an Orange Hall — people in the area know that.”
Only last year, £200,000 of funding was secured to transform Barron Hall into a peace and reconciliation centre.
Kathy explained: “The money is to put in a new kitchen, get new floors down, and put up security fences, among other things. Thank goodness we hadn’t spent the money yet.
“It is a shame we have to put up security fences and secure the windows, but what else can we do? We do not live in an ideal world — all this just proves it.”
Kathy has been overwhelmed by the support from all quarters in the wake of the incidents.
“The support from the community and statutory organisations has been phenomenal. We are getting calls from as far as America. Sinn Fein, DUP, Alliance, SDLP, UUP, churches, chapels — you name it, they have all contacted us to offer their support.
“We are temporarily relocating to Ballyduff Community Centre.
“We are going to be knocked off our feet for a wee while, but we will get back up. It’s hard not to — it’s the people in the area that keep you going.”