By Eoin English
Gardaí have launched an investigation after an arson attack on a Cork school for children with autism.
Two teenagers set fire to a toy storage shed on the grounds of Cara Junior School in Mayfield at around 9.25pm last night.
Principal Emir Duffy said the incident has caused severe disruption to the lives of the school's 60 pupils.
“Our children are bound by routine and predictability. That routine and predictability gives them a structure in which they can understand the world because they find the world very challenging and very confusing," she said.
“So we are going to have a number of highly anxious children today who will have meltdowns because they are not allowed to do what they always do, what is routine, what is predictable.
“If everything happens the same way every day, then that’s ok, but today it can’t.”
The school, established just over two years ago, caters for about 60 children ranging in age from four to 12 with a dual diagnosis of autism and intellectual disability. Most of the children are non-verbal.
Ms Duffy said she was very disappointed that the school had been targeted again by vandals just a few months after windows were smashed.
“The sheds we have in the playground areas would contain various equipment and visuals so children can request items to play with - this shed had a toy kitchen, saucepans, diggers for use in the sand, balls. And all that’s destroyed now," she said.
“Our children need this stuff; it’s not a luxury. They need it to be able to function in our world.
“Today, it means 60 children cannot get out into the garden. They can’t use the sensory garden, the bicycle track, and can’t use the basketball court."
Gardaí in Mayfield, who examined the CCTV footage and conducted a forensic examination of the scene this morning, have appealed to anyone with information to contact them.