Fire at Traveller’s centre confirmed as arson

Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Hassan pictured oiutside the Travellers' Centre at Ballyarnett,
Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Hassan pictured oiutside the Travellers' Centre at Ballyarnett,

The Fire Service have confirmed that a fire at a Travellers Centre in Derry was deliberate.

The fire was reported at the weekend, and has sparked a call for action to safeguard the future of the site.

The Traveller’s Centre is the former hub of the Derry Travellers’ Support Group but has been vacant for a number of years and fallen into a state of disrepair.

A Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service spokesman said they received a call at 3.01pm to a report of a fire at derelict premises at the Racecourse Road area, Ballyarnett on Saturday.

He said: “Fire Appliances from Northland Fire Station were deployed to the scene of a small room beside the building alight in the area. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus dealt with the fire.

“The incident finished at 3.53pm and is being treated as a deliberate fire.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Tony Hassan, who has previously raised concerns over anti-social behaviour at the empty centre, said urgent action is now required.

Colr. Hassan said: “We have been warning about the potential for incidents like that which took place on Saturday for some time now.

“In July of last year, myself and party colleague Maeve McLaughlin MLA called on the Department of Social Development and Derry City Council to look at whether they could come to some agreement on the future of this building.

“Maeve also had a number of meetings with the various departments in relation to the Ballyarnett site and she will now be bringing this up with the Minister.

“This community centre has been lying dormant out here for nearly three years and to date nothing has come out of this which would see a long-term resolution to bringing it back into use for the benefit of the local Travelling population.

“It is ridiculous the building has been left like this .It is going to waste and now has become the target of vandals.”