Children as young as 10 were involved in a night of vandalism that terrified residents in a Limerick housing estate.
Violence flared in Ballinacurra Weston after a number of wandering horses were impounded by the local authority.
Shortly after 2am on Monday, a derelict house was set on fire and Our Lady of Lourdes Church was destroyed after several cans of paint were thrown at it. Less than 12 hours later, in broad daylight, a second derelict house was also set on fire.
Sinn Féin councillor Maurice Quinlivan says he was among those threatened by a group of children when he visited Ballinacurra Weston on Monday afternoon to examine the damage.
“As we were on the way down there some young lads who were running wild around the area set fire to the derelict house. We didn’t actually see them doing it but they told us they did it,” he said.
“Residents were shocked but afraid to ring, and I don’t blame them because these kids were out of control.
“The most dangerous and most unfortunate thing of all is these kids are aged 10, 11 and 12,” he added.
Mr Quinlivan described the attack on Our Lady of Lourdes Church as a “low that we have never seen in the city before”.
He also recalled how emergency services trucks were “battered with stones and big lumps of mud”, when they came to tend to the fires.
A Garda spokesman said CCTV footage is being examined as part of the investigation and gardaí are following leads and are “confident of arrests”.
“It is quite possible there were children as young as 11 or 12 involved but whether or not they caused the damage, it is too early to say,” said the spokesman.
The Ballinacurra Weston Residents Alliance described the violence as an “act of terrorism against the community”.
The group issued a statement with a video recording of some of the incidents, including footage of a derelict house on fire which was one of the properties earmarked for refurbishment as part of the new regeneration plan.
“This is not a protest. This is an act of terrorism against our community,” the group stated. “Our Lady of Lourdes Church was paint-bombed as part of the same ‘protest’ and an elderly couple living in Clarina Avenue had their front windows smashes also in protest. After the horses were seized tyres were set on fire at 2am on the Hyde Road, youths rode their horses around shouting ‘rats’,” it continued.
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