'I really feel sorry for the people who did it,' says Imam of vandalised Galway mosque

'I really feel sorry for the people who did it,' says Imam of vandalised Galway mosque
Some of the damage caused to the building.

An investigation is underway after a mosque in Galway was vandalised overnight.

The Maryam mosque in the Ballybaan area of the city was burgled and a "considerable amount" of damage was caused to the building.

The mosque was "attacked" and "severely vandalised" with windows and locks broken, a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Ireland said.

"The Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Ireland is terrified and deeply saddened by this vandalism and attack on our place of worship and house of Peace," the spokesperson said.

They said they did not know what the motive behind the attack might be.

No one was injured in the incident and no arrests have been made.

However, The Imam of Galway mosque, Imam Ibrahim Noonan, has told of the fear he has for his religious community saying that he had received a phone call some months ago warning him that a right-wing group planned to cause damage to the mosque.

“I did inform the gardaí at the time and it has come to pass, unfortunately,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One.

Gardaí said in a statement that they are "investigating a burglary that occurred in Ballybaan Co Galway on the 29th July 2019. A considerable amount of criminal damage was caused to the premises. No arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing."

An emotional Imam Noonan told of how his office was completely thrashed with personal photographs being thrown out the window along with a tricolour he kept in the office.

Windows in the main building of the mosque were also damaged. “They even tried to tear off the window frames.” The vandals also ripped security cameras off the walls and took them away.

“It is very hard as an Irish man to see this. We are a peaceful community, some of our members are from Arab countries, it’s difficult to consider that Ireland is like this."

“This was vicious. I really feel sorry for the people who did it.”

Imam Noonan said that morning prayers at the mosque had to be cancelled as garda forensic officers were still on site, but he is hopeful that evening prayers can go ahead.

“There was a time I never worried, I felt safe. I am not an easy guy to scare, I’m quite brave in my own way.”

However, he said that he will now have to consider security staff for the mosque. It would be sad to have to put security on duty outside, he said.

“We are trying to figure out why someone is doing this to a peaceful Muslim community. I would say to them ‘if you’re Irish I’m ashamed if you, but I forgive you.”

The mosque was previously vandalised in June 2017 while worshippers prayed inside.

Around 100 people were gathered for evening prayers during Ramadan when rocks were thrown through the windows.

No one was injured in that attack.

- Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke.

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