Belfast Telegraph

We torched Belfast Catholic school in revenge for abuse suffered there, masked arsonist tells Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph reporter Allan Preston meets with a person who has confessed to burning the building down
Belfast Telegraph reporter Allan Preston meets with a person who has confessed to burning the building down
The derelict building
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Former residents of a west Belfast Catholic-run school have claimed responsibility for an arson attack in revenge for sexual and physical abuse by staff.

St Patrick's Training School was run by the De La Salle Order and was among 22 institutions investigated by the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry.

The derelict building had been due for demolition to make way for a new housing development and was set alight on September 19.

A spokesman claiming to be from the St Patrick's Survivors group, which represents around 140 former residents, contacted the Belfast Telegraph to say nine of their members "torched the place to the ground".

Only the nine individuals taking part, he said, were aware of the plan. Speaking anonymously, he said those responsible had been abused at the school in the 1990s.

He said none of them have received any redress, and destroying the derelict building was their way of getting closure.

"We suffered horrendous abuses within that very building, it was always our intention at some point to torch the place," he said.

"We waited very patiently and exacted some sort of revenge 25 years later. I'm not going to lie to you, it gave us great satisfaction."

He said they had previously vandalised the property before arriving with drums of petrol to finish the job.

He claims precautions were taken to make sure no one was inside and the fire would not spread, risking injury and further damage.

With much of the evidence destroyed in the blaze, he said he and his accomplices do not fear prosecution. He also said they do not intend to carry out any more illegal acts, and will only pursue any future compensation and redress by legal means.

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The derelict building

Part of the motivation, he said, was the death of a former resident and close friend in 1995.

He said after suffering abuse, the 11-year-old boy had escaped the school but was killed when a car hit him on the Falls Road.

"We always had that on our mind, we went into the building prior to the arson attack and smashed the place to pieces," he said.

"That paved the way for us to set the place alight. We went into almost every single room with petrol before setting it on fire and making our escape back the way we came. We stood and we watched the building going up in flames. I never felt so exhilarated and excited in my whole life.

"It gave me a real sense of achievement and satisfaction. It wasn't just revenge but a statement. It seemed to lift a very dark cloud that had been within us all. It was therapeutic."

The spokesman added that while he feels he has managed to move on, many of his former school friends who suffered abuse ended up in prison, committed suicide or struggled badly with drink and drug addiction.

The PSNI said enquiries into the incident are ongoing.

The 85-acre Glenmona site was acquired by property developers Braidwater Homes earlier this year.

A proposal to redevelop the site is currently making its way through the planning system.

The company said they did not wish to comment at this stage.

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