An arson at the premises of a Men’s Shed project in Limavady has been described by staff as “an attack on the community”.
The project run by ‘Be Safe Be Well’ operates from a house on Roemill Road. Just after 7.30am police received a report that a bungalow used by the charity was on fire. NIFRS and police attended the scene and an investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.
Be Safe Be Well chairman, Norman Somerville told the ‘Journal’: “It’s a big shock. A lot of work has gone into this and I feel for the men involved as well who had a lot to look forward to as far as Men’s Shed is concerned. We were excited about the prospects for this venue and it’s heartbreaking to see the building totally gutted and that so much equipment has disappeared. Our aim is to get the place back in order in due course, but that will take some time.”
Be Safe Be Well project co-ordinator, Catherine Taylor said she is devastated at what has happened. She said during the last four and a half months staff and volunteers have worked countless hours to get the project up and running.
“When the community heard what we were doing we were inundated with calls from people that a derelict building was being put to good use,” Mrs Taylor told the ‘Journal’. “The project is specifically for men who are elderly, and for men who are unemployed and have nowhere to go and it was lovely to see the house and the camaraderie of the men who came there and who made this house, which was in a terrible state, into a warm environment. It’s incredibly sad this has happened and on that basis it really is an attack on the community. I am devastated for the staff as well who are so committed and have been so passionate about the project.”
Mrs Taylor said while the extent of the damage is unknown at this stage, she said staff will regroup on Monday.
“We don’t know what we are dealing with as far as damage is concerned, but we will sit down and regroup. We have had knock backs before and we will not let this deter us,” added Mrs Taylor.
Be Safe Be Well staff member Mark Vinnicombe said he was gutted at what happened.
“We had our open day a few months ago and we were so well supported by the community,” said Mr Vinnicombe. “There has been so much work by staff and volunteers. It’s devastating this has happened.”
Volunteer Paddy Canning from Glack had been involved in helping with the project.
“I’m gutted something like this could happen in the community, especially when it does so much good,” he told the ‘Journal’. “It’s just a disgrace to see it happening especially when it’s just at the beginning.”
Limavady Mayor DUP Councillor Alan Robinson said he was “devastated” to hear of the fire.
“I was there on the open day and I was so impressed by what was on offer there. I made it clear to staff and those involved that I applauded what they were doing and that it was a service so badly needed in Limavady. Any help or support we can offer, including elected representatives in the area, we will rally round and get the Men’s Shed back up and running.”
PSNI Chief Inspector Alan Hutton, Area Commander said: “I appeal to anyone who was in the Roemill Road area this morning prior to 7.30 am and noticed any suspicious activity or any persons in the area who has any information that would assist detectives with their enquiries to contact CID at Limavady on 101 or alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”