Vandals start fire near Rathfriland Health Centre

AN attack which saw two bins set alight, causing damage to a nearby health centre in Rathfriland has been condemned as a “reckless act”.

The fire service was called to the newly refurbished doctor’s surgery in John Street in the town at 8.30pm on Sunday night and said they quickly established the likelihood that the fire had been started deliberately.

Smoke from the bins activated alarms inside the health centre, and the fire caused scorch damage to the back door.

It is also understood a new key fob on the back door was melted, rendering it unusable.

Local UUP MLA John McCallister slammed those responsible for the fire.

“This was a reckless act of wanton vandalism and thankfully the Fire Brigade responded quickly and brought the blaze under control.

“Attacks on any building are condemned, but deliberately setting fire to a health centre which serves the most vulnerable in our society is absolutely despicable.”

Mr McCallister said the area around the health centre, including the local graveyard, has become a troublespot for youths who have caused problems in recent months and he urged police to step up patrols in the area.

“I would again urge the police to increase patrols especially at the weekends.”

The fact the attack on this occasion targeted a health centre makes the whole situation worse, said Mr McCallister.

“Our Health Service is already under huge pressure and the last thing we need is young troublemakers trying to set fire to bins at a clinic.

“This attack is all the more upsetting given the fact that Rathfriland Health Centre has just been refurbished and modernised in a project which cost a great deal of money. Now the rear door at the clinic has been badly damaged and the key fob melted in the fire.”