By Anne Lucey
A priest at St John's Parish Church in Tralee has spoken of the shock felt by the Diocese of Kerry after a bizarre attack by an ice cream van last night.
Tralee’s main parish church, St John’s Catholic Church, has been severely damaged after a vehicle, understood to be an ice cream van, drove through the locked gates of the church, and proceeded through the double entrance of the church itself.
The incident at Castle Street in the town centre took place at 9pm last night and gardaí were quickly on the scene.
The church is well back from the street and protected by iron gates locked each evening.
However, the vehicle, which was travelling at speed drove through the gates and through the entrance doors and onto a second set of doors.
It is reported that he then left the scene in the van and was chased by gardaí. When officers caught up with him, he was arrested and was found in possession of an imitation firearm, according to reports.
Considerable damage has been done to the main church doors. However, no one was injured and masses are going ahead as normal with a side entrance open.
.@countykerry Cllr Sam Locke is at St John's Catholic Church, Castle Street, Tralee. He says he understands that a van was driven through the church doors. He says it's shocking that someone drove through locked gates & then through two sets of doors into the church.— Kerry Today (@kerrytodayrk) June 29, 2018
Fr Francis Nolan of St John's Parish said: "We are all very shocked that this has happened. However, we are glad that nobody has been hurt.
"Masses and ceremonies at St John's continue as normal with people using the side door. The gardaí are investigating the incident. Damage is limited to the entrance of the Church and we are confident this will be restored to normal as soon as possible. Our prayers and thoughts are with anyone affected by this incident."
Local councillor Sam Locke said people were shocked. A young man driving an ice cream van was arrested and is in custody.
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Kerry said they were informed by gardaí of the incident.
Gardaí are investigating. The damage is being assessed.
St John’s dates to the mid 19th century.