Sunday 23 October 2016

Anger as over 500 children without classes after arson attack damages city school

Sarah O’Toole with mum Lynda, Liam Whelan with mum Ashling and Sophie Mallon with mum Fidelma (INM)
Sarah O’Toole with mum Lynda, Liam Whelan with mum Ashling and Sophie Mallon with mum Fidelma (INM)

More than 500 children are unable to attend class after an arsonist torched part of their school building.

The attack happened between midnight and 1am on Saturday at the award- winning St Mark's Senior National School in Springfield, Tallaght.

CCTV footage showed a lone male in the vicinity at the time of the fire. A source confirmed the fire was malicious.

The blaze destroyed the principal's office and caused serious smoke damage to the 28 classrooms.

After an inspection, the building was deemed unsafe for children due to the level of smoke contamination.

An industrial cleaner has been on site and the school is not expected to reopen until at least March 4 when the situation will be re-assessed.

"It's a tragedy, but we're resilient and we hope to be back better than ever," said principal Richie Walsh.

"It was disappointing and devastating. We're shocked and disgusted. We try to teach the children to be resilient, so now we have to walk the talk.

"The local community has been wonderfully supportive, and we have a great parent- teacher association," he added.

Parents said coping with 500 children with no school for at least a fortnight poses difficulties, particularly for those working outside the home.

Ashling Whelan (39), whose son Liam (11) attends the school, said the principal had helped parents to maintain a positive attitude.

"Shame on the persons who did this to our school. I'm disgusted. Parents feel very hurt. We immediately offered to help clean up, but the work is already being done. It's horrible what happened," said Ms Whelan, vice-chairperson of the parent-teacher association.

Fidelma Mallon (44), whose daughter Sophie (10) goes to the school, said: "The kids are fed up, they miss their friends and are without an education at the moment."

Lynda O'Toole (37), mother of pupil Sarah (10), said: "I put a post on Facebook about fundraising and very quickly we had an offer from St Mark's Celtic FC to host a fundraising night with a band and DJ.

"This fire has caused suffering for children, parents, teachers, and cleaners at the school. Whoever did this to the school was very calculating," she said.

The school previously won an award for its use of new technology for learning.

Local Fianna Fail councillor Charlie O'Connor condemned the attack. Anyone with information is asked to contact Tallaght gardai on 01 6666000.

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