Belfast Telegraph

Two men arrested over burglary and arson at Lurgan GAA club

By Allan Preston

Two men have been arrested following an arson attack and attempted burglary at a Co Armagh GAA club.

St Peter's Social and Recreation Club at North Street in Lurgan was targeted shortly before 5.40am yesterday.

Police received a report of a blaze at the club and firefighters attended the scene, where it was established it had been started deliberately.

Damage was caused to the roof and wall of the property.

A short time later police arrested the two suspects, aged 21 and 22, in the Victoria Place area on suspicion of attempted burglary and arson.

They are still both in custody assisting police with their enquiries.

Martin Lavery, chairman of St Peter's, said its members had been unsettled by the malicious attack.

"Both St Peter's GAA Club and Phoenix ABC are deeply disappointed that anyone would attack the premises," he said.

"Especially as both clubs provide a wide range of sporting, social and other services for all sections of the local community - children and young people in particular."

Officials from the club were alerted by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service around 5.45am on Thursday and quickly rushed to the scene.

Mr Lavery said the damage had been contained to two portable buildings which had been used for years by the youth club at St Peter's and more recently by Phoenix boxing club.

It's believed the damage was confined to the structure of the building and its contents.

This included a full-size boxing ring and equipment belonging to Phoenix ABC.

Despite the damage, Mr Lavery said he took comfort in the support the club had received from the local community.

"We deeply appreciate the member of the public who alerted NIFRS and the local fire crew who attended the scene," he said.

"We are also greatly heartened by offers of support since news of the fire became known."

Boxing coach Maurice Haughian has used St Peter's as the base for Phoenix ABC for the past five years.

He branded the people who started the fire "mindless idiots".

"If it wasn't for St Peter's we'd have nothing," he said.

"It's the only boxing club in Lurgan and it takes years and years to build up to some sort of standard.

"It's hard enough getting funding for a boxing club without this.

"We were in there this morning, the canvas over the boxing ring was soaking, we had to pull everything out and hope it dries. With the smell of smoke, you couldn't use it at all."

He said the fire had ruined plans for a Mid-Ulster Boys' Boxing Championship this weekend as well as a planned fundraising event.

"I can't get my head round it, why they would target it. A boxing club's open to all children from all denominations. Everybody comes to the club," he added.

He said that for the young people training at the club up to four times a week "it's more than just boxing to them".

"It changes a young lad's outlook on life.

"It gives them a wee bit of dignity in themselves and a wee bit of pride in themselves.

"The fellas that did it, in a way I feel sorry for them. We'll get up and get going again but they'll have to carry the stigma of what they've done."

Chief Inspector Davy Beck is appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident or anyone with any information to contact detectives in Lurgan on 101.

Belfast Telegraph

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