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Vandals target Ballinrobe school football pitch

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‘UNBELIEVEABLE’ An aerial view of the damage done to pitches at St Joseph’s Primary School in Ballinrobe last Thursday night. Pic: Conor McKeown

Widespread condemnation for ‘wanton vandalism’

Mike Finnerty

THERE has been widespread condemnation and an ‘unbelievable outcry’ from members of the Ballinrobe community after football pitches at the local St Joseph’s Primary School was badly damaged by vandals last week.
The playing field — which is used by the 450 pupils at the largest primary school in the county and had been developed at a cost of more than €70,000 two years ago — was left with extensive damage after a number of vehicles drove around it repeatedly last Thursday night.
CCTV footage at St Joseph’s is understood to show two cars and a jeep driving around a playground at the back of the school before they entered the pitch areas and began doing ‘doughnuts’ on the snow-covered grass.
They were on the school grounds for up to an hour in total.
A passer-by contacted the principal of St Joseph’s PS, Dymphna Culhane, who then called the Gardaí. They arrived within a short time and questioned the young men at the scene.
The matter was still being investigated by An Garda Siochana yesterday (Monday).
The incident was described as an act of ‘wanton vandalism’ by local Fine Gael Councillor, Michael Burke.
“People are so disappointed about what happened. There was a lot of money spent on that development, they were preparing for children coming back to school, the grounds were just coming on nicely, and I can’t understand the thinking of any individuals, that they think that they could drive in there and not do some damage to the ground,” said Mr Burke.
“When you see the pictures of it, it’s absolutely horrific.
“I know we’re in a Covid lockdown, and people are frustrated, but I just don’t get the fact that people thought it was a great idea, or a bit of fun, to go in and do that sort of damage,” he added.
“There are more than 400 children in the school who won’t be able to use that facility now. “It’s not often that things like that happen in our community, we’re very lucky in that regard.
“But last Thursday night there was a huge mistake made by a small number of people, and I just hope that they see what they have done, and understand that this type of wanton vandalism will never happen in our community again.
“Children want to, and need to, get back to school. To think that they’re going to go back now and that this facility they were supposed to have has been destroyed for probably the remainder of the school year.
“The outcry in our community over it is just unbelievable.”
Ballinrobe GAA club — whose coaches regularly work with children at St Joseph’s National School on the pitches that were vandalised — also released a statement last Friday condemning ‘the reckless and abhorrent vandalism’.
“It shows a complete lack of respect for our local sporting facilities at a time when the children of the community have been very restricted in their ability to play outdoors and enjoy sport,” the club said.
“That pitch was newly developed at a cost of approximately €70,000 and received a lot of support from the businesses and members of the local community. It is now unlikely that they will be able to use the facility before the end of the school year. The perpetrators of this despicable act should be ashamed of themselves.”
Ballinrobe Town AFC echoed these remarks on social media, adding: ‘We as a community do not accept this.’