Heartless vandals target facility for adults with disabilities

A large polytunnel at the Bannvale Unit in Gilford was punctured by the vandals.
A large polytunnel at the Bannvale Unit in Gilford was punctured by the vandals.

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust has appealed for an end to vandalism attacks at a facility that is used by adults with physical and learning disabilities.

The plea comes after heartless vandals targeted Bannvale Horticultural Unit in Gilford, Co Down earlier this week - the latest in a series of sickening incidents at the Moyallen Road site.

The vandals damaged an irrigation system and 'disturbed' plants and gardening equipment, according to the Southern Health Trust.

The vandals damaged an irrigation system and 'disturbed' plants and gardening equipment, according to the Southern Health Trust.

On Wednesday evening (April 4) a member of staff discovered that a large polytunnel had been ripped and punctured, an irrigation system damaged and plants and gardening equipment had been “disturbed”.

Stressing that the unit offers service users with a range of disabilities “a valuable daytime opportunity”, a spokesperson for the Trust revealed that vandalism has been “an ongoing problem around the site” and appealed for the attacks to stop.

Bronagh McKeown, Head of Disability Day Services for the Southern Trust, said: “The Horticultural Unit at Bannvale offers a much-valued day opportunity for people with disabilities from the area, giving them the chance to develop their gardening skills and enjoy the social interaction of working together.

“Our service users and staff at Bannvale take great pride in their work and we know that they are really appreciated by the local community who come to buy their goods.

“Everyone at Bannvale has been very distressed by this incident and that we will have to use public money to repair such unnecessary damage. It is extremely frustrating for staff and service users to deal with the aftermath of such destruction, particularly as they are preparing for their busy season.”

The Trust is asking anyone who notices any suspicious activity around the Bannvale site to contact police.

Echoing the plea for an end to attacks at the facility, Upper Bann MLA John O’Dowd urged the culprits to “wise up and leave the users of and staff of Bannvale in peace.”

“The ongoing vandalism at this community facility is completely unacceptable and I would urge anyone with information about the culprits to bring it to the attention of the PSNI,” he said.

Confirming that officers are investigating a report of criminal damage at the facility, a PSNI spokesman said: “Enquiries into this are ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact 101 quoting reference 1019 of 04/04/18.”