Four houses built as part of a Traveller accommodation programme, which were already refurbished following previous arson and vandalism attacks, have been targeted again.
One unit was destroyed while three other properties were extensively damaged in an arson attack in the early hours of yesterday. The alarm was raised at about 12.30am.
The only occupied unit at the five-house Beech Park development near Ennis, Co Clare, was gutted while the family was away from home.
It’s believed the arsonists gained access by climbing a wall at the rear of one of the homes. A semi-detached home was completely gutted, while the adjoining property was also damaged, with sections of the roof caving in.
A caravan parked on the property was also torched, while fires were set in two other vacant houses on the site, 2km from Ennis town centre.
An on-site security man is understood to have encountered at least one man at the scene but was not harmed.
The same homes had to be vacated by Traveller families in the aftermath of an arson attack in Feb 2010. Clare County Council spent €51,000 refurbishing the units following that incident.
The Beech Park Traveller accommodation was built in 2004 at a cost of €2.2m. The council had been having difficulty letting the units in recent months due to “intimidation and threats within the Traveller community”.
Chairman of the Clare Traveller Accommodation Committee Cllr Brian Meaney said: “An immediate and thorough investigation into this latest incident is now required and I hope that local residents will offer their full co-operation to gardaí.
“As far a I am aware, no one has ever been prosecuted for arson attacks on Traveller accommodation units in Ennis. I hope that every effort is made to track down these culprits and that every assistance is provided to gardaí by anyone who knows or saw anything.”
A spokesman said: “Clare County Council is unable to comment while a Garda investigation into the incident is ongoing.”
The local authority has, controversially, spent €3,000 a week on round- the-clock security. Mr Meaney said: “Security at Beech Park costs a lot and I wonder how effective this really is, if council property can’t be protected.”
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