A club for people with special needs that the recently retired chief executive of Barnardos children’s charity, Fergus Finlay, had wanted to develop has been badly damaged in a fire.
Mr Finlay is the chairperson of Lakers, a sports, social, and recreational club for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Bray, Co Wicklow.
The premises was badly damaged and four buses used by the club were destroyed in the fire on Thursday night. The building was empty at the time and no one was injured.
Mr Finlay’s adult daughter, Mandy, is one of the 400 members of the club who are encouraged to develop their innate skills and self-esteem in an environment that is inclusive and supportive.
Mr Finlay said the club that was “run on a shoe-string” offered an extraordinary range of opportunities in “a pretty tumbledown building” for their members.
Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, Mr Finlay described the club as a “lifeline” for its members.
Mr Finlay said it appeared that the fire was caused by an electrical fault and he could not say when the club would be up and running again.
“Our 400 members will be devastated until we can get going again,” he tweeted yesterday.
Mr Finlay announced later in the day that the club had set up a fundraising site with a €100,000 target on gofundme.com in response to the many people who wanted to make donations.
He said one of the buses was brand new, having been purchased after a major fundraising campaign last year.
Extensive damage was also done to the club’s newly renovated training kitchen and an art room where many of the daily activities took place.
Mr Finlay said if they could organise replacement buses, they could organise venues.
Club staff and volunteers met health minister and local TD, Simon Harris, yesterday and will meet him again on Monday to discuss the club’s future.
Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson and local TD, Stephen Donnelly, said emergency funding must be made available for the facility as soon as possible.