Another arson attack in Killyeagh has caused widespread concerns in the local community.
An attempt to burn down the former Royal British Legion building in Catherine Street on Monday night has been condemned widely.
To date in Killyleagh, damage through a number of arson attacks runs into several hundred thousands of pounds. The public toilets were destroyed, a vacant manse building was torched, a bar was set alight, a pigeon loft was burned, and only very recently six weeks ago, the arsonist(s) set fire to an empty home in the Kerry Estate in the town.
The recent attack on the former RBL building in the heart of Killyleagh started with a pile of rubbish in an alleyway adjacent to the vacant building being set alight. “This was an attack on our community,” said Councillor Billy Walker (DUP) speaking to Down News. He added that this behaviour was just “totally unacceptable, and I condemn it in the most possible strongest terms. The recent incident in the Kerry Estate was an example of how reckless these arsonists are. Six weeks ago a family living next door to this empty home had to flee for their lives. It is just heartless. That incident could quite easily have ended in a terrible tragedy.
“If these arson attacks continue, it is just a matter of time before someone losses their life… and this includes those who are starting the fires. It would be quite easy to become disoriented in a smoke filled building and succumb to the smoke.
“I am therefore appealing to everyone and anyone in Killyleagh if they know who is involved in this, to contact the police on 101 or call Crimestoppers or even contact me before a death does occur.
“I know that there are many very well behaved youngsters in Killyleagh and the finger should not point in their direction. But whoever is doing these arson attacks must stop immediately.
“And I would like to pay tribute to the emergency services – the Fire Brigade were on the scene very quickly and dealt with the fire which could have catastrophic consequences. In the past couple of years they have attended a number of arson incidents.”
During the Fly Fishing Fair in Killyleagh last summer, a group of youths were seen hanging around the replaced toilet block outside Killyleagh Library – the old toilet block had been destroyed in an arson attack. They had gone into one of the toilets and in broad daylight around mid-day on a Saturday set a small fire which was put out by passers-by. With such an audacious, insensitive and irresponsible display, are these in fact the arsonists that the police are now looking for?
And Councillor Terry Andrews (SDLP) also joined in the condemnation of the recent attack on the former RBL building. He said: “This old building was always at the heart of our community for many years and it would have been a sad loss if it has been destroyed in an arson attack.
“Someone in Killyleagh must know who is doing this. Repeated arson attacks are a danger to the people who live here and eventually this will end up in tears and tragedy.
“I was an officer in the RBL in Killyleagh for some time and such behaviour tarnishes the memory of the many men and women who served in the forces in two world wars.
“This building was sold to the Killyleagh Development Association but they could not raise the funds to renovate it so it was sold on to a third party. This building now needs to be made secure or these arsonists may call back and continue where they left off.
“The residents in Killyleagh need to be on alert especially over the winter months and report any suspicious activity to the police. This behaviour is just mindless and if it is not stopped could lead to a fatality.”