Thursday July 01 2010
A GANG of thugs left a trail of vandalism and destruction in a town centre during a night of mayhem that included an arson attack on an archbishop’s palace.
Gardai say the cost of the damage caused by the vandals in Tuam will run to thousands of euro, while only the quick thinking of firefighters saved the historic residence of the Archbishop of Tuam from burning down.
Archbishop Michael Neary would normally be at home in the house at the end of a driveway behind Tuam Cathedral, but was away following the death of his mother on Tuesday.
His secretary, Fr Fintan Monaghan, was asleep alone in the house, which was built in 1904, when he was woken by a phone call at 4.40am yesterday.
“Fr Sean Cunningham from the presbytery rang me to say that a nun from the Mercy convent had contacted him because there was smoke coming from the direction of the house,” Fr Monaghan said.
“My car, which was parked outside, was on fire and there was a diesel tank just six feet away from the flames. The fire brigade arrived quickly and only for them I suppose anything could have happened if the tank had caught fire.”
His car was burnt out along with holy oils and a number of irreplaceable hill-walking maps Fr Monaghan had left inside.
He then discovered that the gate lodge at the foot of the driveway had also been vandalised. The lodge dates back to the start of the last century and is used as a store room for the cathedral.
The vandals had thrown a metal dustbin through a front window of the lodge.
“It seems they just wanted to cause damage, because they ignored the coins from the collection plate we had there,” Fr Monaghan said.
By now, gardai were at full stretch in Tuam town centre, dealing with reports of damage to property, while dustbins had been overturned and the contents scattered around the square and along Dublin Road.
Local hairdresser Della Dolan, who lives above her business My Fair Lady, said she reckoned the vandals had reached her premises at 3.23am.
“I have CCTV installed outside my hairdressers and that’s the time they caused the damage. They picked up one of those big rubbish bins and threw it up on top of my car. They also smashed the windscreen,” Ms Dolan said.
It was the fourth time this year Ms Dolan’s car had been targeted by late-night hooligans. On previous occasions, her wing mirrors were smashed and the rear window of her car was damaged.
This time, however, Ms Dolan reckons gardai will be able to identify those responsible for the trail of destruction.
“I had the gardai here and I think it was three lads who did it. They had a look at the CCTV and I expect they will find them pretty quickly. But I’m disgusted at what they have done. It’s a disgraceful way for anyone to behave,” she said.